Published By: The Guardian, 9/9/2016
Facebook recently blocked a news article that reprinted a Vietnam War photo of a naked girl running from a napalm attack. The photo was flagged by an algorithm designed to identify photos containing nudity. Facebook keeps changing how much it uses humans vs. algorithms to control news feeds; trouble ensues either way. The issue raises questions about whether Facebook acts — or should act — as a media company with editorial responsibility or as a neutral distributor.
Most articles about this story include the photo in question, which does feature a naked nine-year-old girl with severe burns. Articles mention pornography and relevant body parts in passing.
Extended Discussion Questions
- The article mentions that 44% of U.S. adults get most of their news via Facebook. Where do you see current events stories first?
- Do you think it’s a good idea for Facebook to use an algorithm for this job? Why or why not?
- Some of the news outlets involved are suggesting that Facebook should have different rules for different countries, depending on local culture. What could be some potential problems?
- How would they need to change their algorithms? The datasets they use to train them? (If you’ve discussed training data.)
- Can Facebook know for sure what country someone’s in?
- How should they decide what the rules are for each country?
- Facebook claims that it is just a “technology platform”, not a media organization.
- What’s the difference? What does a news media organization do that Facebook doesn’t? Related Content: Chapter 7 of Blown to Bits discusses this issue in detail, though with older examples.
- In what ways does this story support the claim? In what ways does it challenge the claim?
- Why do you think it’s important to Facebook to say it’s not a media organization? Hints: Are there legal or ethical requirements for news media? What expectations do readers/viewers have?
- Do we need new categories for the digital age?
“Facebook’s Censorship Problem Is What Happens When a Tech Company Controls the News”
Published By: Slate, 9/9/2016 || View the Article
Provides more discussion about the media organization vs. distributor question. More of an opinion piece.
Relating This Story to the CSP Curriculum Framework
Global Impact Learning Objectives:
- LO 7.1.1 Explain how computing innovations affect communication, interaction, and cognition.
- LO 7.3.1 Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing.
- LO 7.4.1 Explain the connections between computing and real-world contexts, including economic, social, and cultural contexts.
Global Impact Essential Knowledge:
- EK 7.1.1C Social media continues to evolve and fosters new ways to communicate.
- EK 7.3.1A Innovations enabled by computing raise legal and ethical concerns.
- EK 7.3.1E Commercial and governmental censorship of digital information raise legal and ethical concerns.
Banner Image: “Network Visualization – Violet – Crop 8“, derivative work by ICSI. New license: CC BY-SA 4.0. Based on “Social Network Analysis Visualization” by Martin Grandjean. Original license: CC BY-SA 3.0