“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

JOHN 1:1

DOES FACEBOOK HAVE TOO MUCH POWER?

Has Facebook gotten to big? Almost seventy percent of Americans have a Facebook account. Of those three quarters visit the site daily. Almost half of Americans use Facebook as one of their sources of news. Facebook has become the largest hangout in America.

In corporate terms they are close to a monopoly. At the very least they have become an important part of the information flow and an influencer of our society. But has their growth stayed consistent with their controls and morale maturity?

Recently, Franklin Graham was banned from Facebook. Why? Because of a post protesting North Carolina’s position on bathroom access. Franklin Graham is the son of Billy Graham and certainly has conservative Christian views that not all agree with. But he is an American and has the right to express his opinion and practice his religion.

When the leadership of Facebook discovered their misstep, they immediately apologized and restored his status. Their explanation for the ban was that one of their fifteen thousand content moderators had determined that Graham’s post was hateful based on his viewpoint.

Wait! They have fifteen thousand people reviewing posts every day to decide if what gets posted is appropriate? Seems like a little bit of Big Brother.

As Facebook has grown to become an important influencer in American life and thoughts, it needs a closer look at its policies of determining what is appropriate and isn’t. At the very least it shouldn’t be left to a one of fifteen thousand hidden in a cubicle with their own views of morality to decide.

Certainly, any post that promotes violence or contains offensive words should be questioned. Certainly, any conversation that derides or is discriminatory against any race, creed, religion, gender or age group needs to be questioned. But what are Facebook’s boundaries? Have they left content decisions up to a single person who has more power than their position dictates?

Facebook is definitely having growing pains. From allowing Russian influencers to impostor as average Americans and post false news in our last presidential election. To allowing Cambridge Analytica the ability to acquire sensitive information about Facebook users. They have grown so large that they can no longer control content without making a misstep.

Franklin Graham has a belief that the truth lies in the word of God and more specifically is a devout Christian. While we may disagree with Graham on his interpretation, we can all agree he is a Christian. Throughout most of his adult life, he has supported worthy causes and helped his neighbor. He hasn’t been one of those evangelists that take advantage of others or preached selfishly. He has always said what he believed with his only agenda of speaking his truth about God. He certainly isn’t a hate monger. He just believes what he believes and loves his neighbor.

But Franklin Graham has a big following and a bigger voice than most Americans. When he protested his ban, it made national news. But what about other Christian’s who don’t have an influential name or base. They become powerless against a hidden force that can ban them because they don’t agree with their views on faith. There is no one you can call at Facebook to protest. They only answer emails. In fact, most responses from Facebook are form letters. No real answers, just frustration. Their truth gets lost.

It makes us wonder in this age of identity politics and political correctness, has some unknown figure taken on the role of deciding what the truth is about Christianity without recourse? In America today, according to Pew Research, seventy five percent identify themselves as Christian and two thirds of this group prays daily. If identity politics is the current way of thought. Why would we ban Christian input on a site where the vast majority identify themselves as Christian?

As Facebook has grown, it also has unwittingly become a powerful forum. A forum of ideas and points of view. It has become a forum that can be manipulated by insiders and outsiders. A forum of national debate that needs more openness. But it should also be a forum where those who intend harm are better identified and those who express views not to harm, are not restricted.

Facebook does provide valuable resources and contains wonderful content. Most companies have learned that Facebook advertising is a very effective way to promote products. For many, it is a way to keep up to date on family and friends. For shut-ins it is a window to the outside world. Many who post on Facebook have content that is insightful and sometimes down right humorous. We may not always agree with what we read, but more often than not it helps us keep track of our world.

Facebook does help us every day, seventy percent of Americans use it frequently. But Facebook can’t be the decider of our religious beliefs or morality. It certainly shouldn’t be left to some unknown person sitting in a far off cubicle deciding what is the truth and what isn’t. It certainly shouldn’t be selling our private information to unknown entities. It should also know when twelve million messages and users from a foreign country are trying to influence our elections. It has gotten so big that it needs to be more focused on what counts and what doesn’t.

Recently, many people have opted out of Facebook and their membership is declining. The reason, the impersonal and ambiguous way they decide what content can be presented. They have not protected our privacy, in attempts to generate more profits they have sold our information. Unwittingly they have become a source for false news and allowed their immense influence to be appropriated by those who seek their own mission.

Facebook stands at a crossroads of either hearing the complaints and changing or stubbornly continuing a path of profit accumulation that will eventually cause them to fail. Not an uncommon dilemma for those who gain remarkable success, but a crossroad that needs humility.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Glen Carrie

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