Did you see the thing about Facebook?

Not that one, the other one. No, the OTHER other one. Oversight, Australia, and ad reach, oh my!

The first one: Oversight Board

Last week, the Oversight Board which conspicuously lacks a reference to Facebook in its name accepted public comments on its upcoming review of the company’s decision to suspend Donald Trump’s account indefinitely.

CITAP submitted a comment noting the disproportionate influence of elite voices in public debate and concluding:

Facebook should draw a bright red line at the attempts of any political leader,or those vying to become one, to undermine democratic checks, including the workings of elected representative bodies, judicial systems, and those tasked with the non-partisan administration of state functions including elections.

Election law scholar Rick Hasen organized a related comment: “The easiest case justifying removal of posts and potential deplatforming is political speech which calls for political violence against a democratically elected government or against people. Such speech has no place in a democratic discourse, and Facebook has a moral obligation not to spread such speech,” while the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia suggested that the case raises questions about the limits of the Oversight Board’s jurisdiction: “The fundamental problem is that the content-moderation decisions that the Board has been tasked with reviewing can’t actually be separated from the design decisions that Facebook has placed off limits.”

For more information on the Oversight Board, its creation, and its play for legitimacy, the New Yorker published law professor Kate Klonick’s deep dive into the human and organizational dynamics behind its creation.


In response to a proposed law that would charge technology platforms to link to news sources, Facebook rolled out a news-blocking filter in Australia. Daniel Kreiss noted that “Removing news from Facebook will likely cause more problems, such as declines in revenues for publishers and increased mis/disinformation,” recommending instead that “governments should directly support public domain journalism that accords with a set of content-neutral, quality practices: transparency, accountability, dialogue, reliability, and collaboration… The public needs both quality journalism and the opportunity to encounter it in many domains.”

For more thoughts on how to fund public-interest journalism, Dr. Kreiss and Mike Ananny proposed their framework in “A new contract for the press.” For even more, Mike Ananny’s Networked Press Freedom explores infrastructure for “the public’s right to hear.”

ICYMI: Inflating ad reach

The reasoning behind the proposed Australian law is that technology platforms’ rise have contributed directly to the financial precarity of journalism as targeted online advertising cuts into traditional media advertising revenues.

All the richer, then, that as Facebook fights against funding journalism directly, it also acknowledges having overstated the reach of its own advertising platform in response to a class action lawsuit.  The court docs include internal quotes detailing how the company came to recognize the inflation in their “Audience Reach” metric, used by many ad buyers to assess the scale and value of a specific target group—and how they reached the decision to maintain the inaccurate metric.

As CITAP graduate affiliate and adtech expert Bridget Barrett summed it up, “for every example of Facebook's nasty practices with users there's an example of them doing the same to advertisers.”

Recent publications and appearances

"Notwithstanding the desire and affordances to share therapeutic artifacts online, our results show that music therapists discourage social media sharing. Music therapists act as copyright gatekeepers not only to avoid legal liability, but also to forestall emotional harm to patients and families should these artifacts be subject to an online takedown notice.” Faculty Research Affiliate Amanda Reid published a new article in the International Journal of Communication on how music therapists balance the benefits of sharing health information on social media with platforms’ copyright enforcement mechanisms.

“Going forward in the Phillipines, there should be more coordination between the parties. There is an ethics of campaigning during COVID, and it would make sense that either civil society organizations or some of the arms of party organizations themselves could work together to set up guidelines about how campaigning should be conducted.” Daniel Kreiss spoke on a panel (also featuring Commissioner Thomas Hicks of the US Election Assistance Commission) to unpack the US 2020 elections for government officials, civil society organizations, and journalists in the Philippines.

"The attempt to algorithmically remove politics from platforms seems, to put it bluntly, doomed to fail.” Deen Freelon was quoted in a piece from The Markup on the “technical issues” that caused Facebook to continue promoting political groups to users, even after the January 6 insurrection. Dr. Freelon’s work is also featured prominently in a new report from the Center for Democracy & Technology, which outlines a research agenda for disinformation, race, and gender.

“The immense difference in the U.S. between people who have caregiving responsibilities at home and those who do not will not change without systemic investment in child care, elder care and disability benefits... In addition, without national-level, comprehensive privacy reform, the use of social technologies by the criminal justice system, the police and the government will continue and will further entrench unevenly distributed levels of privacy.” Alice Marwick was featured in an Elon/Pew survey of the impact of COVID-19 and new technologies.

Francesca Tripodi was cited in an Atlantic piece by Barbara Fister on the shortcomings of classical information literacy in combatting conspiracy theories and alternative truths.

Coming soon

On February 23, Deen Freelon will give a talk at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public: “Hashtag heroes vs. disinfo dystopia: The left, the right, and the truth about social media activism.”  On February 26, Dr. Freelon will appear on a panel to discuss Ethical and Practical Issues in Data Collection for the University of Copenhagen Center for Social Data Science.

Tressie McMillan Cottom will be giving this year’s Ed Mignon Distinguished Lecture at the University of Washington Information School on April 13. Dr. Cottom will also give the keynote address for the Association of College & Research Libraries 2021 Conference, taking place April 13-16.