Facebook too powerful, politicians fear

The government will hold an open hearing after the summer holiday over concerns that Facebook’s censorship policies could unduly influence social debate

Facebook’s influence over societal debates is so strong that several political parties want to find ways to limit the social media giant’s power and control.

Danish politicians and political parties are keen users of Facebook to spread their message and many Danish newspapers require a Facebook account in order to comment on stories. But trouble can arise when users post images or write about subject matter that the company finds offensive.

The influence of the private American company in debates over Denmark’s future has led the culture spokesperson for Socialdemokraterne (S), Mogens Jensen, to call for an open hearing after the summer holiday.

“Facebook is a debate and information motorway in Denmark and there is no doubt that we have reasons to be very sceptical about some of Facebook’s policies,” Jensen told Berlingske newspaper. “These include the ethical dimensions of social media, which in some cases looks like censorship.”

Speaking to the tabloid BT, Jensen pointed to a case in the US in which photographs of protests against a manufacturer of genetically modified crops was deleted at the request of the company.

And in Denmark this winter, MP Pia Kjærsgaard (Dansk Folkeparti) had her Facebook profile frozen for 24 hours after calling PM Helle Thorning Schmidt (S) “stupid and naive”.

To Berlingske, Jensen said that his ambition is to enter into a political dialogue with the company.

“If that doesn’t work the next step could be to influence organisations, the general population, the media and politicians to leave Facebook because the values of the social media do not harmonise with traditional Danish values regarding free speech.”

Ellen Trane Nørby, the political spokesperson for opposition party Venstre, agreed with Jensen’s concern about Facebook’s power but argued that it ought to be the EU that takes up the issue.

“Facebook plays an important role in the debate about society and we as politicians have to consider the consequences of giving the role of gatekeeper to a private company,” Nørby told Berlingske. “But it would have even greater weight if the EU as a whole attempted to influence Facebook.”



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