The End of Social Media’s ‘View From Nowhere’

Trump’s extremism is forcing tech companies to abandon the pretense of political objectivity — for now

Will Oremus


Photo: Taylor Smith

There’s an idea in media criticism known as the “view from nowhere.” Popularized by Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, the phrase takes aim at the ethos of political agnosticism that news outlets have historically cultivated. He argues that “both sides” reporting, which treats competing viewpoints or arguments as equally valid, does a disservice to the truth. Journalism about the “climate debate,” which used to give industry shills equal airtime alongside climate scientists, is a famous example.

Social networks, perhaps Facebook most of all, have long embraced their version of the view from nowhere. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly defended the social network as “a platform for all ideas.”

But the deplatforming of Donald Trump, following last week’s violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, marks a departure from that approach. So does Facebook’s hiring on Monday of Roy Austin, a civil rights attorney who served in the Obama administration, for a newly created position at the company: vice president of civil rights. And when I remarked on that hire on Twitter — arguing that Facebook could have made such a move five years…