This week while testifying to a congressional committee in Washington DC, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of one of the largest tech companies in the world, told the lawmakers inquiring into Facebook's issues with protecting users privacy that the company was developing Artificial Intelligence systems to censor controversial content on the platform.
Besides highlighting the fact that most United States senators, like most of the ordinary people they represent, do not understand Facebook’s data - mining based business model or the user agreement they’ve already consented to while using Facebook. With pundits who witnessed the spectacle describing Zuckerbrg's responses to questions as robotic and his reliance on copious notes leading to numerous long pauses in dialogue, some people mush have wondered if Zuckerberg is an Artificial Intelligence system rather than a human being.
Over his two days of in the hot seat, Facebook's plan for using algorithmic AI for potential censorship practices was discussed multiple times, with Zuckerberg deflecting questions about Facebook's failure to protect privacy trying to justify his planned suppression of free speech by claiming his censorship plans were in the interests of containing hate speech, fake news, election interference, discriminatory ads, and terrorist messaging.
The problem with that is opinions differ on what constitutes hate speech or any of those other categories up for cybercensorship. Some would say that mentioning Islam's promotion of acts that are illegal in western nations (e.g. wife beating, sex with under age girls,) is hate speech, but would give a free pass to Muslim preachers who remind their audience the Holy Koran calls on the faithful to kill all who will not convert to Islam.
The track record of Zuckerberg and his company for jumping on every politically correct bandwagon that rolls past is no secret, so obviously they are not suitable people to manage algorthithms which determine what is and is not acceptable content online.
Although nobody raised that specific point, AI was mentioned at over 30 times as Zuck extolled the virtues of technology. He claimed Facebook is five to ten years away from a robust AI platform. All four of the other Big 5 tech conglomerates — Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft — are also developing AI, many for the shared purposes of content control. The fact that all of them have proved not fit for purpose in their efforts to control internet users' activities did not appear to concern the committee.
For obvious reasons, this push for control of so much information by some of the greediest, most amoral and fascistic corporations on the planet should worry civil liberty activists and anyone concerned about the erosion of free speech and other civil rights online. The encroaching specter of a corporate-government propaganda alliance is not a conspiracy theory, it is there, staring us in the face in everything the internet companies do.
Barely a month ago, Facebook, Google, and Twitter testified before Congress to announce the launch of a ‘counterspeech’ campaign in which positive and moderate posts will be targeted at people consuming and producing extremist or radical content, which will of course go down like the proverbial lead zepplin with net users
Like the other major social networks, Facebook has already been assailed by accusations of censorship against conservative and alternative news sources.