Scott Tibbs

What is a lie?

By Scott Tibbs, January 20, 2020

Are the demands for Facebook to deal with "deep fake" videos and "misinformation" about preventing manipulation of the 2020 election (especially by foreign sources) or is the real motivation much more insidious?

One thing is sure: The demands for Facebook to prohibit "lies" on the platform are getting louder. But I have one very simple question: What is a lie? It sounds like a simple question, but it is actually more complicated than one would think, and that question needs a solid answer before Facebook implements more policies. I have been accused of "lying" literally hundreds of times when what I said was factually true. The accusation of "lying" is not a legitimate argument meant to point out actual falsehoods - it is an effort to smear me personally and silence me.

This is where I suspect many of these demands are going - to silence conservatives and prevent pro-Trump content from spreading. Conservatives already rightly distrust Big Tech in general and social media specifically, and we are rightly skeptical of calls for Facebook to take action against "lies" and "misinformation" on the platform. So if this is to be a good faith effort, what should be the standard for removing content?

The first and most obvious standard is that before a "lie" or "deep fake" is deleted by Facebook administrators, it has to be demonstrated to be false, and that falsehood should be vetted by more than one source - and sources with differing ideological and political leanings. It would not be enough for Planned Parenthood or NARAL to complain that a pro-life post is a "lie" for Facebook to take action to remove the post.

And what about parody? There are plenty of funny meme videos that are fairly obviously not a real depiction of events, but are distorted or edited for comedy purposes. These include "interviews" with politicians or public figures that are not presented as factual, but are presented as comedy. We already see hypersensitive editors at Facebook putting "fact check" articles on Babylon Bee articles, even though it is clearly a satire website. Will Facebook start cracking down more and remove these things from the website?

Ultimately, the standard should be simple: No doxxing, no explicit threats of violence, a working block feature (which could be improved) and nothing that is illegal in these United States. Other than that, Facebook policies should be hands-off. Above all else, Facebook's rules should be clear, and all of the rules should be public. The fact that Facebook is so secretive about content guidelines is a big part of the problem. This does not have to be difficult.

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