May 27, 2021 | 8:39pm | Updated May 27, 2021 | 9:04pm
Facebook’s flip-flop on COVID posts comes more than a year after it banned a well-reasoned Post opinion column by China scholar Steven Mosher that speculated about a potential lab leak.
iStock; AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
Is there something in the California water that makes Silicon Valley’s censorious dweebs so damned shameless?
On Wednesday, Facebook revised its policy of banning posts suggesting the coronavirus was man-made — because the COVID situation is, er, “evolving,” as a spokesman told Politico.
Gee, thanks. The flip-flop comes more than a year after the social-media giant banned a well-reasoned Post opinion column by China scholar Steven Mosher that speculated about a potential lab leak. Will our columnist receive an apology? Of course not. But it’s the American people who should be holding the Menlo Park tyrants to account.
Think about it: If you were Xi Jinping, and you wanted to deploy an information-control operation over the origins of COVID-19, you couldn’t have done better than to just let Facebook, working in conjunction with America’s bottom-feeding “fact-checking” industry, do its thing.
The Chi-Coms, after all, were held in odium in the US eye long before the first COVID cases arrived: How much more effective — and devious — to have a gazillion-dollar US tech firm shut down public inquiry into the virus’ origins, and that with the help of well-credentialed “experts” and “fact-checkers.”
It’s worth returning to what Mosher wrote to see how shameful Facebook’s censorship was. For starters, note that Mosher didn’t definitively claim that COVID-19 had leaked from a lab. What he argued, rather, is that a lab leak should be plausible to anyone familiar with Chinese realities. Among the pieces of evidence he marshaled:
• The fact that Xi himself had, in the early days of the crisis, warned about “lab safety” as a national-security priority.
• The fact that, following Xi’s guidance, “the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology released a new directive titled: ‘Instructions on strengthening biosecurity management in microbiology labs that handle advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus.’ ”
• Above all, the fact that the Middle Kingdom has only one Level 4 microbiology lab that can “handle deadly coronaviruses” — and that lab just happens to be located at the “epicenter of the epidemic.”
Set aside any other scientific questions about the virus (many remain unresolved): Didn’t it at least merit some thought that the country’s sole coronavirus lab is located at the outbreak’s ground zero?
Even if Mosher were wrong — and a growing number of US security officials and top scientists are coming around to his side — didn’t Americans and their policy makers have the right to consider the possibility? The virus’ true origins, after all, would inform any number of concrete decisions, not least whether Beijing and the curiously Beijing-subservient World Health Organization deserved US cooperation.
But no. Facebook and its “experts” knew better and moved to suppress a vital column, distorting the US debate when it mattered most.
Oh, about those “experts,” whose testimony was used to justify the ban: At least one of them — Danielle E. Anderson, an assistant professor at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore — regularly collaborated with the Wuhan virologists, hardly an unconflicted source.
Another “expert” insisted that no “responsible” government would permit such deadly leaks, and the quaint assumption that China ranks among responsible governments was enough to merit banning Mosher’s column to her mind.
Similarly dubious “expert” claims, amplified by partisan “fact-checking” outfits like Politifact, were used to frame as conspiracy nuts anyone who dared warn of a potential lab leak. (Politifact has now quietly taken down its denunciation of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson as a leading conspiracy theorist on this issue.)
This pattern of Big Tech censorship, enabled by unaccountable “fact-checkers,” poses a catastrophic danger to America’s ability to govern herself and respond to crises.
The problem isn’t just that it leaves ordinary Americans in the dark, but that it insulates elites themselves from uncomfortable realities — such as the possibility that their beloved Chinese trading partner might be responsible for a pandemic that cost millions of lives.
Enough is enough. Facebook and the other Big Tech giants are irreformable. Only political action — in the form of removing the special status that allows them to act like publishers without any of a traditional publisher’s liabilities — can save us from this private tyranny.
Sohrab Ahmari is The Post’s op-ed editor and author of the new book “The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos.”
How to prepare your Facebook account for your digital afterlife
Today, our online lives are where we share a lot of private and personal information, especially on social media platforms where we share many of our thoughts, post photos and videos over the time we have spent online. Among these social media platforms, Facebook is the most used social media service today. A lot of us, our friends and our family members have a Facebook account. We post and share everything from our private photos to a personal message via Facebook.
But have you wondered what happens to your Facebook account and the information (like posts, comments, photos, videos, etc.) that you have created and accumulated on the service after your time?
■ What will happen to my account?
■ Who can access your profiles?
■ Who will own your account and data?
■ How to manage it when such a time comes?
Facebook has added features to your account so that you can decide what happens to your account when such a time arises. Follow the steps given below to set it up and ensure that the information in your Facebook accounts is handed over to someone else safely or managed according to your choice.
Setting up Facebook’s legacy contact:
In the case of Facebook, you can choose to memorialise your account and hand over the control to a ‘Legacy contact’ of your choice or altogether delete your profile after your time.
Step 1: To set up your legacy contact, you can visit the ‘Settings & privacy’ option under your profile and select the ‘Memorialisation settings’ under ‘General Account settings’. You can also sign in to your account and visit https://www.facebook.com/settings to access this setting.
Step 2: Now, you can choose a legacy contact in this setting by searching for and adding a friend from your account as your legacy contact. Do note that, once memorialised, the legacy contact can only moderate the posts on your page and not post on your behalf.
Step 3: The following setting is to choose whether to allow your legacy contact to download all your data that you have created or shared on your Facebook account like posts, photos, videos etc.
Step 4: The final setting on this page could be considered an alternative to choosing a legacy contact. This setting is to delete your complete Facebook account once you pass away. Facebook needs to be informed about your death and requires verifying it with valid documentation to activate this feature. The company will delete all your information on Facebook on completion of this process.
To know more about these settings, you can visit the FAQ page on legacy contact.
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Big EU lawsuit against Facebook morphs into 3-year ‘partnership’ with complainants
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Three years ago, a group of EU consumer agencies launched a multi-country lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the social media giant of having illegally harvested the data of millions of users.
More than 300,000 angry Facebook users positioned themselves behind the collective action suit, which promised to award them individual monetary damages if the company was found guilty of wrongdoing.
On Friday, those lawsuits quietly morphed into a brand new partnership with Facebook.
Euroconsumers, the umbrella organization behind the Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Portuguese lawsuits, announced they were entering a partnership with the company focused on the “safety and privacy” of Facebook users.
The move comes after POLITICO reported that Euroconsumers had settled its lawsuit with Facebook at the end of April — and highlights the fact that collective action lawsuits rarely make it over the finish line in Europe, sheltering companies from the type of action that can produce crippling damages in U.S. courts while leaving consumers with little recourse.
Originally, Euroconsumers had told people who joined the case it would seek compensation of €200 for every Facebook user whose data was mishandled.
In the end, though, there will be no court decision, no admission of wrongdoing by Facebook and no direct payment from the company to consumers as a result of the settlement, according to Euroconsumers.
Instead, the consumer groups and Facebook said they were forming a joint committee focused on three priorities: sustainability, digital empowerment and fighting scams. The issue of privacy — which was the explicit focus of the lawsuit — is the “umbrella” under which the thee priorities fall.
As for the consumers, they are being promised a vague consolation prize.
The four consumer groups said they would commit to “reward” consumers who joined the original lawsuit with “a package to help consumers be safe online” — but no hard cash.
Asked whether Facebook had paid money to Euroconsumers in the settlement, the group declined to comment. POLITICO reached out to Facebook, but the company didn’t give an immediate response apart from the press release.
Meanwhile, the committee isn’t committed to producing any specific results.
“There are specific initiatives in the making, but there will also be a consumer reporting channel. We will able to report problems that emerge, like feedback from our members,” said Els Bruggeman, head of policy at Euroconsumers.
A spokesperson for the group said: “It’s the moment to try to influence the reasoning from companies who are managed far away.”
Legally speaking, though, the heat is off Facebook.
The consumer groups will evaluate their collaboration in three years.
“An agreement for one year would be too short. Three years is long enough to be able to evaluate. There will be a lot of changes in the digital world in that period,” added the spokesperson.
In the meantime, a change in legislation may give future collective action lawsuits in Europe more teeth: A directive finalized late last year could lead to bigger pan-European collective redress cases.
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Russian watchdog demands that Facebook delete post insulting WWII veterans
MOSCOW, May 29. /TASS/. Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) demanded that US company Facebook delete an Instagram post that insults the memory of World War II veterans, the watchdog said on its website on Friday.
“Roskomnadzor has sent a letter to Facebook Inc top management, demanding that content insulting the memory of World War II veterans be deleted,” the watchdog said. “The governmental agency found the unlawful post on the Instagram social network, owned by Facebook.”
According to Roskomnadzor, publication of clearly offensive information that insults Russia’s military glory and memorable dates, or desecrates military glory symbols, or offends WWII veterans constitutes a criminal offense in Russia and is subject to criminal proscution.