Which seems like it would be harder for a social media company to do: Identify specific text phrases shared in posts over its networks, or listen to and identify music played on videos?
Although it is undoubtedly tougher than doing a simple text search, somehow platforms like Facebook and YouTube have no trouble appeasing their fellow corporate conglomerates and their teams of lawyers and billions of dollars to police videos for copyrighted music for immediate removal. And yet they can’t seem to figure out how to handle written disinformation regarding the fate of the planet’s climate.
These platforms are so eager to protect intellectual property that they’re frequently overzealous, as Kate Cell of the Union of Concerned Scientists and an amateur pianist, discovered in April when she shared a video on Facebook of herself playing Bach.
Bach, Cell notes in a blog post, has “been dead for 270 years,” so it was quite a surprise when Facebook “partially muted” her rendition, at the request of supposed copyright holder, Universal Music Group.
Fewer than 15 minutes passed between Cell posting the video and it being taken down, meaning Facebook has deployed some sort of automated system to scan content posted for copyrighted materials. (Either that or it employs a secret army of musical geniuses to listen to everything posted and determine its copyright holder…)
Less quick was the correction for this obvious error: It took two weeks for the major record label to acknowledge that it was Cell playing the piano, not one of their artists, and for Cell’s video to be “finally released from ‘Facebook jail.’”
This, Cell realized, shows that “Facebook plainly has effective content controls when the profits of large corporations are concerned. This makes it all the more frustrating that they allow misinformation and outright disinformation on climate change (and elections, COVID, vaccines, etc.) – which often leads to greater harm to already vulnerable or under-represented populations such as women and BIPOC communities – to travel freely and speedily across the platform.”
When the party asking for content to be removed is a $53 billion dollar record company, Facebook acts within minutes to restrict a small, personal account. When humanity asks for Facebook to maybe do something about the deadly disinformation and rampant misogyny users experience, and how it facilitates sex trafficking and genocide by organized criminal syndicates and governments, Facebook’s response time isn’t quite so swift.
The upside, though, is that clearly Facebook can be made to care. If it can name that tune for every video with music posted, and have it removed immediately pending review, why can’t it do more about disinformation?
Climate deniers have been pushing the same stupid lies for decades, surely Silicon Valley’s best and brightest could figure out a way to catch that content before it deceives their users. After all, they’re clearly capable of removing content.
But apparently they’re more worried about protecting false copyright claims than they are false climate claims.
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