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Facebook is 20, but the social media giant can't get past these 5 threats

OpinionFacebook is 20, but the social media giant can't get past these 5 threats

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Happy birthday to … Facebook? OK, it’s not every day that we celebrate a business turning 20. But it’s not every day that one of the most-influential social media companies in the world marks two decades impacting our lives.

Note, I didn’t say benefitting our lives. Facebook, and its younger sibling Instagram, are definitely a mixed bag. They have built careers, contributed to the global conversation, given platforms to more than 2 billion people and introduced a censorship regimen to the entire world. 

Any time major issues occur, Facebook has been on the front lines of controlling what we say about them – COVID-19, the presidential election, transgenderism and even Israel’s war against Hamas


Last May, journalist Matt Taibbi produced what he called the “Top 50 Organizations to Know in the Censorship-Industrial Complex.” The report highlighted the influence that government, foundations, academia, fact-checkers and others had on Big Tech, including Facebook and Instagram. Taibbi complained on X/Twitter that Facebook censored the report. 

It’s impossible to know how many users experience censorship on Facebook. Posts disappear or get restricted. Even users sometimes don’t know what post was taken down or why. But the censorship has hit a wide range of prominent people – Robert Kennedy Jr., Larry Elder, Glenn Beck and more. 

According to Statista, Facebook removed nearly 50 million posts for “hate speech” from winter of 2022 to fall of 2023. The number of spam posts removed in that time is close to 5 billion. And that doesn’t count posts or accounts that were restricted in some way.

One of my favorite examples of Facebook censorship was when the site covered an image of Santa Claus kneeling in front of the baby Jesus. The company placed the words, “violent or graphic content” atop the illustration. The use of what is called an interstitial is common, but few users click on the button to see the image beneath.

The problem of free speech

Boy, I hate even typing those words. Facebook and most other social media companies reflexively censor. Their business model isn’t built on free speech. It’s built on not offending people. Facebook wants to be an ad venue and just suck up your time while it rakes in money. The company doesn’t want users saying anything that makes its mostly left-wing staff unhappy.


Even when the company talks about giving users a “Voice,” it lists four reasons why it might take that away, but the key one is “Safety.” Facebook overwhelmingly worships an ideal that is not part of the American DNA – being safe. The whole history of the United States from founding its in revolution, to innovation, space exploration and more has always been freedom.

Facebook didn’t always disagree. Almost five years ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was still defending the idea of free speech. He gave a speech at Georgetown University where he argued, “As a principle, in a democracy, I believe people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.”

Boy, that seems like ancient history.

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, posted the text under the now-hilarious headline: “Mark Zuckerberg Stands for Voice and Free Expression.” That was before the 2020 election really got going and before Facebook suspended the president of the United States. Then came COVID and that whole idea went out the window.

Even then, the idea of Facebook leaning toward freedom was aspirational, not realistic. Its often-revised “Hate Speech” policy currently stands at 1,600 words. But it is so sweeping that most users could never follow it accurately, nor could staffers or the almighty algorithm that controls much of the content.

Current protected groups include: “race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, and serious disease,” as well as “refugees, migrants, immigrants, and asylum seekers.” But just like in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” some of those groups are more protected than others.

To give an example of how that plays out, in February 2022, Facebook censored Ohio Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel. A Marine veteran, he posted an image that said, “Illegal immigrants should be deported” with the line, “Veterans Before Illegals.” 

With that kind of speech restriction, we can’t even debate the major issues of the day. And that’s the way Facebook execs like it.

I am not entirely unsympathetic to Facebook. I’ve spent years working on online censorship and the questions that come up are ones that are light years beyond what most users encounter. Videos of crimes, live videos of murder, threats in countless languages, graphic pornography and more. No matter how depraved you think people can be, Facebook content moderators have seen worse – every day.

In Zuckerberg’s speech, he listed three potential future threats to free expression. That danger has only gotten worse. So here are his plus two more.

1. Legal

Zuckerbeg is right here. Facebook is global and every nation has a different idea of approved expression. Europe wants to restrict speech. Ireland, which is part of the EU, is working hard on a new bill to do just that.

But much of its problem is the company’s own fault. It embraced the authoritarian agreement to limit speech called the Christchurch Call. And Zuckerberg has repeatedly urged the U.S. government to give it rules, so that it can get out of the censorship business and blame someone else for restricting content. 

2. The platforms themselves

Once more, Zuckerberg was right. Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, Google and, to a lesser extent, X/Twitter restrict speech as a matter of business. Users regularly get restricted or banned on one platform after another with no recourse. The rules and offenses vary from one site to the next and users, even prominent ones, have no easy means of appeal. People can spend years building up an account for their business or beliefs and lose it overnight on every single platform.

Remember how that became wildly political leading up to the 2020 election. Facebook was a moving force in restricting the Hunter Biden laptop story. And before Elon Musk took over Twitter, the companies tended to support one another on major decisions. 

3. Our culture

Zuckerberg’s comment here is especially telling, given everything that has taken place since. “[W]e’re seeing people try to define more speech as dangerous because it may lead to political outcomes they see as unacceptable.”

That sounds great, except Facebook is filled with staff who love to censor conservatives and conservative ideas. The company readily works with the left and gives only slight attention to conservative complaints. This included hiring former Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl who produced a whitewash report addressing conservative complaints. 

The problem with this section is whose culture. Earth has almost an infinite number of cultures and subcultures. The company itself is based in the U.S. where founding documents defend the very freedoms the company rejects. 

4. Fact-checkers

Much of the Facebook censorship industrial complex is based on declaring some content wrong. All of that comes from the 11 so-called “independent fact-checkers” that the company uses, only two of which lean right. 

Facebook Zuckerberg

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg ( |  Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The fact-checks come from activist groups like PolitiFact and “news” organizations like the Associated Press and Reuters which are often wildly biased. Contrary to what the left may claim, facts don’t have a liberal bias. But they do on Facebook. And there’s little organizations and users can do about it.

Liberal fact-checkers, often either in college or fresh out of it, reach out to conservative organizations demanding mountains of information on controversial issues like abortion. They still declare conservatives to be in violation, seldom applying the same clarity to liberal groups or news organizations, even when they are blatantly wrong.


It’s like playing in Vegas with a fixed deck, a crooked dealer and the casino as the final authority. 

5. Facebook’s competition

Now that it is 20, Facebook has matured. That’s shorthand for most younger people don’t use it. They use Instagram and competitor TikTok. Unfortunately for the free world, the wildly popular TikTok is a propaganda operation for the genocidal Chinese regime. It manipulates users, but the younger generations love it.

Mark Zuckerberg at Big Tech hearing

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, arrives to testify before the US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis,” in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2024.  (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Meta has some strength with Instagram, but Facebook is nowhere near as successful with younger users. And the Facebook version of Twitter called Threads has been a laughable failure so far. 

The Future

It’s obvious the Facebook staff never envisioned the potential problems they would have with content. They must have believed connecting the world meant knitting groups and movie fans and not criminals, scammers and dictatorial governments.

Facebook has an almost omnipotent ability to control what we say. It can and has limited speech, restricted or banned posts and the people who post them. It can be either the world’s largest printing press or the world’s biggest censor.


It chose to be more of a feelgood gulag because it doesn’t want to be the true public square. It just wants our money.

Users signed up to have a voice, to talk online about whatever matters to them. Facebook would rather they kept quiet and posted pet photos. 



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