Monday, May 24, 2010 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Facebook Triggers Another False Alarm over Corporate "Censorship"

Leo Laporte claimed yesterday on Twitter that Facebook had censored Texas radio station, KNOI Real Talk 99.7 by banning them from Facebook "for talking about privacy issues and linking to my show and Diaspora [a Facebook competitor]. Since Leo has a twitter audience of 193,884 followers and an even larger number of listeners to his This Week In Tech (TWIT) podcast, this charge of censorship (allegedly involving another station, KRBR, too) will doubtless attract great deal of attention, and helped to lay the groundwork for imposing "neutrality" regulations on social networking sites--namely, Facebook.

Problem is: it's just another false alarm in a long series of unfounded and/or grossly exaggerated claims. Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes responded:

The pages for KNOI and KRBR were disabled because one of our automated systems for detecting abuse identified improper actions on the account of the individual who also serves as the sole administrator of the Pages. The automated system is designed to keep spammers and potential harassers from abusing Facebook and is triggered when a user sends too many messages or seeks to friend too many people who ignore their requests. In this case, the user sent a large number of friend requests that were rejected. As a result, his account was disabled, and in consequence, the Pages for which he is the sole administrator were also disabled. The suggestion that our automated system has been programmed to censor those who criticize us is absurd.

Absurd, yes, but when the dust has settled, how many people will remember this technical explanation, when the compelling headline is "Facebook Censors Critics!"? There is a strong parallel here to arguments for net neutrality regulations, which always boil down to claims that Internet service providers will abuse their "gatekeeper" or "bottleneck" power to censor speech they don't like or squelch competitive threats. Here are just a few of the silly anecdotes that are constantly bandied about in these debates as a sort of "string citation" of the need for regulatory intervention:

posted by Berin Szoka @ 11:02 AM | Antitrust & Competition Policy , Free Speech , Neutrality , Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism