Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Businessweek
Technology

Should Twitter, Facebook, and Others Delete Provably Wrong Material?

Before you answer that question—what if it’s posted by a president or prime minister?

Social media platforms say it’s not their job to make sure that everything people say on their sites is accurate. “We definitely don’t want to be the arbiter of the truth,” Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told the BBC in 2017. That position is understandable: Not only would the task of verifying every post be enormous, but censorship would annoy many of the sites’ most active users.

On the other hand, the false information that remains rife on the major sites can have horrifying consequences. In Myanmar, virulent posts by Buddhist nationalists on Facebook last year incited ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority. In 2016 a North Carolina man fired rifle shots into a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant because he believed phony YouTube videos claiming the restaurant harbored a satanic child-sex ring involving Hillary Clinton. The list goes on.