This Letter to the Editor is solely the opinion of its author. It does not reflect the opinion of this newspaper’s staff, ownership, or management.
By Matt Dierlam
As a loyal Facebook user for many years now since its inception around 2004. I have always believed it was a great way to connect with family, customers, and friends. Over the years, I’ve helped people create Facebook pages for business and personal use. I even created a Group page for my extended family, which has been very valuable for communicating events and our family reunions. Unfortunately, it has also become somewhat of a problem for all of us.
Many of my family and friends have recently dropped their Facebook accounts and quit using the platform entirely for various reasons, including having their account hacked, or because they feel their privacy has been violated. I was contacted recently by a couple of friends who mentioned they had received a “new” friend request with my picture. So I searched for the fake account and found it with my photo and six of my friends who bought into the fake friend request.
I reported it to Facebook and here’s their response:
Thanks for letting us know about something you think may go against our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. In this case, we reviewed the profile you reported and found that it doesn’t go against our Community Standards.
The Facebook Team
Community Standards? Wouldn’t you think that a multi-billion dollar social media organization like Facebook would be able to monitor and protect its users from hackers and impersonators?
The main thing that I have learned about Facebook, and other social media platforms, is that there are just too many bad actors, hackers, and fictitious users out there to allow this platform to influence us any longer. Trust, democracy, civility, and truth are at risk.
Even scarier is they have compromised our privacy by sharing our personal information without our consent. This company has sold our private information to third-party businesses, like Cambridge Analytica and other organizations, so they can create targeted programmatic advertising and political messaging.
Facebook has also negatively impacted many valuable businesses, Once a major source of credible information, newspapers, and magazines have suffered from social media’s invasion, and, so has the truth. Remember, what you see on social media may or may not be the truth. What appears in a respectable (or reputable) publication has to be somewhat truthful and accurate because of liability issues.
Additionally, there are a lot of fake accounts on Facebook. I believe they are allowed so that Facebook can charge more for their advertising platform, opening the door for questionable characters to rant on various subjects and attempt to scam people. As great as it sounds, that just creates division amongst people and races. Many questionable users hide behind an emoji, graphic, or fictitious photo so they can say anything they want without consideration for how it may impact an individual, business, or organization.
I understand the value and importance of free speech and I believe it’s one of the most important rights that we have as U.S. citizens. But, it’s a right that is often abused. With Facebook, there’s little responsibility, or accountability for editing, to ensure truth, accuracy, and ethics. Without the ethics of responsible journalism, we live in a world of lies and deceit.
Fake news, propaganda, and fictitious users do not contribute to a free democratic society. Unfortunately, people have used this platform as a weapon to create mass manipulation and to disseminate false propaganda and misinformation. It has seriously affected our elections and contributed to a sharply divided country. Social media has amplified division and hatred from race to gender, and politics. It has even contributed to war, abuse and uprisings. That’s why society needs trusted community news sources that uphold the integrity and the responsibility for ensuring the truth and accuracy of local and national news reporting.
Journalism is the pursuit of truth, accuracy, and fairness in the telling of a story. Journalists and reporters work hard to uncover the truth and strive to accurately inform their audiences by investigating and double-checking their facts. They have been educated and professionally trained on the ethical standards of reporting. By offering insightful coverage or exposure to projects that impact our region — from schools to local events and programs, from food banks to job training for at-risk youth — we can only hope to build, strengthen and inspire a sense of community.
From our political elections to regional uprisings and the Covid-19 pandemic, we keep learning of episodes where social media was used to spread disinformation. Social media may not yet have shown us the worst it can do to a divided society. And, if we don’t get a handle on this reckless and false information source, we could see worse play out sooner than we think. We the people, need to be leaders in promoting the value and importance of factual news and information – for our communities, children, and declining moral fabric.
What started as a place for friends and family to share events and happenings has turned into a tool for disinformation and division. There is no better time for more accountability and/or censorship of all social media platforms. We, as a community and as a country must demand it.