Social Media, Censorship, Fake News, and Sacha Baron Cohen

Before I begin, I’d like to fully acknowledge that you have likely read the buzzwords (besides Sacha Baron Cohen) in the title at least a million times. And for that, I apologize. But here it goes.

The other night during a debate between British PM Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, his opponent from the Labour Party, the Conservative Party re-branded their news account as “factcheckUK”, pretending to be an organization who fact checks the debate. During the debate the account published pro-conservative “fact checking”, with the general public having no idea that the organization would be misleading them. After the debate the organization reverted the title of the website and their logo to normal.

But why is this a big deal? Well, besides the obvious fraudulent behavior, it is exploiting the very real concern surrounding lies and fake news. With lies being spread so readily nowadays in political debates, our own president has lied over thirteen thousand times according to an actual fact checker, people have come to rely on fact checkers to clear the air when it comes objective truth. Pretending to be a service that so many have come to rely on an insidious political tactic.

I’m sure that most everyone is familiar with the controversy surrounding FaceBook, fake news, Russian bots, and that whole mess. But more recently there has been discussion about requiring FaceBook to censor fake news or provide fact checking. Now, with fact checkers even having to be fact checked, it may be time to talk about regulation. Sacha Baron Cohen, a famous satirist, has received the Anti-Defamation League’s “ADL International Leadership Award”. In his acceptance speech, he calls for the regulation of FaceBook in order to fight bigotry, lies, and hate. (It is well-worth the 24 minute watch, but for anyone reading those who is short on time, click here for an abridged version). Cohen draws the analogy that a restaurant owner would not be required to serve a Neo-Nazi who is screaming hate speech in their dining room. That restaurant owner would be morally obligated to remove them. He says that FaceBook, similarly, is required to remove Neo-Nazis from their website that spread lies like “The Great Replacement” or a “Latino Invasion of the US”, or Holocaust denial. As these are, needless to say, complete lunacy.

When fact checkers are not enough, the integrity of elections are at stake, and the moral fiber of our society is in jeopardy, it is time to take a stand. Social media needs to be regulated, because the fundamental accepted truths of our world cannot be tampered with any longer. We cannot allow the era of evidence and reason to end.

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