The invasion of Ukraine proves that Big Tech cannot be the arbiter of “truth”.

People can be forgiven for missing this point when artillery shells flybut a lesser-noticed detail emerging from the fog of the Ukraine war is that Silicon Valley’s info-policing policy is a total failure: it’s unworkable, lacks consistent thinking behind it, and is subject to sudden reversals that driven by them is the heat of political passions rather than principles.

Facebook, for example, has a policy against death threats. Or at least earlier: Now there is an exception for Vladimir Putin. Request his assassination, and as of this week, Mark Zuckerberg is fine. Also, it’s okay to use Facebook to incite violence against Russian soldiers, even those who wonder what the hell they’re doing trampling on a sister country and would like to find a way to lay down their arms without being shot for desertion.

Indeed, Putin is a bad actor, but once you replace the question, “What neutral principles do we stand for?” with “Which side are we on?” Things can get complicated pretty quickly. Facebook has just unbanned a Ukrainian fascist fringe group called the Azov Battalion for being “on the right side” when it comes to fighting Putin, albeit very much on the wrong side when it comes to almost everything else, if one considering that they are series contain neo-nazis and their emblems have a nazi tint.

Azov battalion
Facebook has unbanned the neo-Nazi group Azov Batallion.
War map of Ukraine
Map of Russian attacks in Ukraine on March 11, 2022.

All sorts of false claims are made, especially in times of war, and these claims have been widely disseminated on huge technology platforms. The story “Ghost of Kyiv” spread by the official social media channels of Ukraine about a brave Ukrainian pilot The alleged downing of 10 Russian jets last month has been shared by millions on Twitter and Facebook, although it appears to be a fake based on stock images, a video game sequence and a photoshopped headshot of a Buenos Aires lawyer.

On the other hand, Google’s brother YouTube hosted Russian propaganda videos claiming that the terrified Ukrainians were begging Mother Russia to come and rescue them. One researcher estimated that 115,000 sock puppets were spreading propaganda about Russia on Twitter and Facebook, and the number of such accounts skyrocketed by 11,000% in mid-February as Putin prepared for the invasion.

Get the latest Update in the Russia-Ukraine conflict with live coverage of The Post.

If you want to figure out what’s true and false for billions of eyeballs, you might as well try controlling the wind. And it is supreme arrogance when the censors and algorithm geeks of Google, Facebook and Twitter decide that they and their armies of 24-year-old content managers are blessed with the wisdom to work out what is right, especially when perceptions of truth are so often hinges on the question, “Which side are you on?”

Wladimir Putin
Facebook has changed its hate speech policy to allow death threats against Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers.
Alexei Nikolsky

Truth nailing is now and always will be a central source of human conflict, and no centralized ministry of information can hope to resolve this issue. Ultimately, the truth is decided by letting it spill out in the thunderdome of ideas. Facebook shouldn’t be more involved in what people say about its service than Verizon or UPS.

Instead, Silicon Valley seems to base its decisions on who screams the loudest. Facebook and Twitter suppressed those of The Post true and accurate reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop, then he instead promoted an open fiction circulated by Trump-hating ex-intelligence officials and much of the major media outlet that the laptop story was “Russian disinformation.” Silicon Valley said, “Which side are we on?” before facts. Twitter even banned The Post’s other, unrelated stories for more than two weeks. Its CEO Jack Dorsey later said, “Oops” about all this.

Ukraine war
Google and YouTube hosted thousands of Russian propaganda videos before the invasion.
Anastasia Vlasova

What he and the other hand wringers in the Valley should be saying is, “We’re a digital public space. We cannot be the arbiters of truth. You figure out what to believe.” But then, such an attitude would require transparency, courage, and the quality that Silicon Valley lacks most: humility. The invasion of Ukraine proves that Big Tech cannot be the arbiter of “truth”.


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