On October 12, 2021, with assistance from Georgetown University’s Civil Rights Law clinic, I filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Facebook for its failure to abide by its own terms of service and remove videos of my daughter Alison’s murder. That same evening, I appeared on Erin Burnett’s program on CNN.
During my interview, Erin produced a note from Facebook stating they had removed all the videos my team had flagged. She read that statement on-air to me and millions of viewers. But as I have come to experience with my prolonged battle with Facebook, their statement wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Wash, rinse, repeat – it’s the same tactic they’ve been using since it all began for me after Alison, a television reporter, was murdered while doing her job.
The response usually goes something like this: “We at Facebook (or YouTube, depending on the day) are so sorry for your unimaginable loss. Violence has no place on our platform. We take this very seriously. These videos have been removed.” And here we are, this time weeks later, with the videos Facebook claimed on national television that they removed, still up and easily found.
‘I’m not surprised’
Having lived through this cycle for five years now, I’m not surprised. Frances Haugen and another recent whistleblower confirmed what I’ve maintained all along – that Facebook has the ability to remove violent content, misinformation, and harassment, but they won’t because this content is profitable. Alison’s murder can be monetized and highly shared for traffic, and so they do it because they can.
What can be done? I had my turn testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee two years ago to rebut the claims of innocence coming from endless parades of Facebook and Google executives. I even got a perfunctory bit of empathy from Senator Ted Cruz after the hearing. Obviously, that good will did not result in any meaningful action other than spawn more hearings with Mark Zuckerberg parroting the same disingenuous talking points.
Last year, Georgetown Law and I filed a similar FTC complaint against YouTube and its parent company Google because Alison’s murder video is still all over that platform as well. Since that time, despite numerous updates and examples of videos still circulating on YouTube, we’ve heard nothing but crickets from the FTC.
Thanks to immunity from any liability provided by Section 230, Facebook and Google can get away with anything except copyright violation. In an effort to exploit that small opening, we’ve asked Gray Television, the owner of the video, to grant a co-copyright so we can use the “Al Capone” strategy – if we can’t bring Facebook to justice for their most egregious practices, at least we could hold them accountable in some measure. Gray has refused.
Will Congress react to the pressure?
My testimony, the FTC filings, and our attempts to obtain copyright are the equivalent of throwing spaghetti on the wall, hoping something sticks. Currently, it all seems to be sliding off. The FTC could emerge from the shadows and fine Facebook and Google. They’ve levied multimillion-dollar fines in the past, but for companies worth billions that’s little more than chump change. However, because of the current firestorm of accusations against Facebook, there is increased pressure on Congress to finally act and amend Section 230.
That will require something a dysfunctional congress may be hard-pressed to accomplish.
So Facebook has a new name?: I’m pretty sure they’re going to keep the same practices.
Alison’s murder being shared on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube is just one of the egregious practices that are undermining the fabric of our society. Haugen confirmed that Facebook could use its AI to stop this shameful practice, but instead their algorithms are not designed to make using Facebook as helpful or as wholesome as possible. They are designed to keep users hooked.
To me, the fix is easy. Do away with the liability immunity section 230 provides. If Facebook and YouTube find themselves in court and looking at thousands of legitimate lawsuits, they’ll stop the action that made my FTC complaints necessary. Congress, stop fiddling while Rome burns. Do your jobs. Do it for all those who have been harmed. Do it to save our country. Do it for Alison.
Andy Parker is an activist and author of “For Alison: The Murder of a Young Journalist and a Father’s Fight for Gun Safety.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: My daughter was murdered on television. And video is still all over the internet.