Opinion: Social media wrap: Sarah Palin, Facebook and the blogosphere get their freedoms in a bunch


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Sarah Palin, Facebook and a blogger this week were ensnarled in an unseemly spat over freedom-of-speech-vs.-tyranny-of-the-majority-vs.-freedom-of-the-press (kinda, sorta).

Palin, a prolific Facebooker with nearly 2 million followers, posted a lengthy protest against a plan to build a mosque at the site of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. A blogger took exception to Palin’s call and urged his readers to report the post, leading to Facebook’s automated system removing it.


Upshot: After an apology to Palin, Facebook reinstated the post -- saying it was the result of a “technical glitch” -- while said blogger, Tumblr’s Moneyries, got his moment in the sun and a bit of national exposure. Nobody’s rights were infringed. Or were they?

Facebook, which is used by some 500 million people worldwide, seemingly did nothing (legally) wrong. A spokesman for the social media site said the deletion of the post was well within its terms and conditions (which, at 5,830 words, are longer than the U.S. Constitution and specify the company’s right to remove any post that is hateful or incites violence, or contains graphic content or nudity). Facebook did, however, apologize to Palin for the deleted post, and reinstated it Friday.

Moneyries certainly did nothing wrong by urging his followers to report Palin’s post so many times that, in his own words, it led to a “refudiation” of the post (a play on Palin’s now famous made-up word in an earlier post, a term which shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone who’s been following the former governor of Alaska and likely 2012 presidential challenger).

Palin, for her part, also did nothing wrong unless you consider her post railing against the mosque to be inflammatory hate speech (which legal authorities both local and nationally clearly do not).

The brouhaha exploded in the blogosphere and led to further questions about Facebook’s policies and the effects of such a coordinated attack on a mainstream politician led from outside the mainstream media.

So is it a freedom-of-speech-vs.-tyranny-of-the-majority-vs.-freedom-of-the-press issue? Only if you believe Facebook is a democracy, and a functioning one at that.

-- Craig Howie

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Graphic: Facebook