Over the last several months, there has been a major debate over who blew up the Nord Stream pipeline, which took natural gas from Russia to Western Europe. Pulitzer-winning journalist Seymour Hersh claims that the U.S. blew it up with the help of the Norway government. Others say Hersch’s story is wrong. It has been a fascinating debate.
But instead of allowing people to make up their own minds, Facebook has decided to take a side. It is censoring Hersch’s article, as the above video, made around 3:30 pm PT, shows. "We don't think we can make ourselves the arbiter of the truth" said a Facebook executive just a few years ago. And yet that's what they're doing.
Some amount of censorship, or “content moderation,” is inevitable. The vast majority of Americans would support many forms of content moderation. But censoring a debate over who blew up a pipeline does not meet the threshold of needing to be censored. And instead of explaining, Facebook sends readers to an article in Norwegian by its Norwegian fact-checker, Faktisk, which is run by a Norwegian journalist.
In other words, Facebook has decided that a Norwegian journalist is right and Hersh is wrong. And maybe Hersh is wrong. Maybe the Norwegian journalist is right. Whatever the case, it should not be up to Facebook to decide. It’s a debate that should proceed without Facebook’s intervention.
What’s more, Hersh is infinitely more independent than Facebook’s Norwegian fact-checker. The fact-checking organization is a partnership with a Norwegian government-owned media company, NRK, which has a direct self-interest in censoring the story.
By contrast, Hersh makes his own money through Substack and won a Pulitzer for exposing U.S. government abuses in Vietnam.
Kristoffer Egeberg, the editor of Faktisk, emailed us back to take issue with our characterization of the issue. “Fact-checking and critical journalism is not about censoring the debate,” he wrote, “but about enlightening the debate. As far as I know, you are free to share and comment on the Hersh article in question. No one is being banned or silenced…. Regarding how Meta handles their platform and audience, you need to contact them directly. That said, as an independent media organization, we would not participate in a partnership that involved censorship.”
Whether Hersh is wrong or right, his reporting should be debated publicly, not censored. Facebook’s actions are antithetical to America’s free and open debate tradition and its rejection of secretive, authoritarian censorship.
The American people have given Facebook broad liability protections under Section 230 that other media companies don't get. And yet Facebook is acting like a media company, not a platform. As such, Facebook is putting its Section 230 protection at risk. And censoring Hersh may only attract more attention to it.
Why is Facebook doing it? Why would it risk so much to censor a single article?
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