As Meta evolves, it should place more trust in its users

The New York Times reported that Meta hid a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop, fearing it was misinformation


Courtesy of Search Engine Journal

Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted last week that it suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop story.

Conor Metzger, Staff Columnist

What happens when you introduce an idea that makes people think their lives could turn into “The Matrix”? You do an interview circuit with all the major podcasts in the world. This is where we find Mark Zuckerberg as he pivots his company, Meta — formerly known as Facebook — to focus on creating a better virtual experience within the “Metaverse”. 

I will admit, I was skeptical of the Metaverse at first. We should all be cautious of change and push back a little, because the best ideas are able to survive dissent. What changed my mind was listening to Zuckerberg on the Lex Fridman Podcast, where he presented his vision for where his company will go in a simple, realistic manner. Now, Zuckerberg has taken on the largest podcast in the world with the hope of easing everybody’s mind.

I would highly encourage everyone to listen to Zuckerberg’s interview on The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE), available exclusively on Spotify. At the beginning of the interview, Zuckerberg explained some new Meta technology, such as a VR headset focused on providing a more social experience. Rogan and Zuckerberg also talked about the importance of activity and having some kind of physical release outside of work. The part of the interview that garnered the most attention, however, was the revelation that the FBI approached Facebook and Twitter during the 2020 election, asking tech companies to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story.

This story revolved around Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, and a laptop that allegedly contained emails concerning corrupt business dealings between Russian, Chinese and American officials. When this story first broke, it was covered by right-leaning news outlets like the New York Post and Fox News, while more left-leaning outlets like CNN tried to cater to their audiences by either discrediting it or downplaying it.

However, this past March, the New York Times published an article claiming that the story was true and authenticating some of the emails found on the laptop. Zuckerberg explained his side by saying that the FBI approached them in the lead-up to the 2020 election and asked them to suppress the story. Their fear was that it was Russian propaganda meant to turn the election in President Trump’s favor. Facebook obliged, doing this by algorithmic means so that the story didn’t appear in many people’s feeds. Twitter prevented the story from being shared at all. Zuckerberg expressed regret for this decision but explained that he trusted the FBI at the time and felt it was the right call.

This, of course, is a rather startling revelation. There was a major news story that was suppressed due to fear that it would negatively affect one side of the election. What actually happened was that a significant, true story did not reach people’s attention due to government interference. Censorship is a topic that I have voiced issues with in the past. One of the principal arguments in its favor is that the government and the select few who run tech companies are better equipped to decide what is true and what is not. However, the Hunter Biden story demonstrates that this is not the case. 

Is there propaganda out there? Yes, and sometimes it becomes dangerous enough to influence elections and cause harm to others. But when you censor information, you are stopping people from even developing the skills to decide what is true. When the task of discerning what is true and untrue is left to a select group of individuals, politics and biases inevitably get in the way, burying minority opinions. 

Stories like this should not be censored. A better approach would be to allow the story to be shown, albeit maybe with a disclaimer that it could be propaganda. Spotify has done something similar with podcasts that discuss COVID-19 in an attempt to not suppress minority opinions about the pandemic and to instead give people all the facts so they can make their own decision.  

My hope is that this revelation by Zuckerberg will capture more people’s attention, enabling them to see the errors that government and tech companies have made. I don’t think that the FBI, Twitter or Meta had any malicious intent when suppressing the Hunter Biden story. However, I do think that Americans should be more cognizant of what information they are seeing and not seeing, and learn how to make informed decisions. If we can’t, the government is right in taking this power away from us.