Recently, a CNN reporter asked how Facebook could simultaneously promise to tackle fake news while also keeping conspiracy theory site InfoWars and its host Alex Jones, who called the Sandy Hook massacre an “elaborate hoax by the government,” on the platform. Facebook said InfoWars did not violate the rules that Facebook created, and utilized the classic “gotta hear both sides” defense. Facebook then doubled down on its response via Twitter.
InfoWars, which peddles weak and expensive vitamins, has over 900,000 followers on Facebook. How are we to deal with a multi-billion dollar corporation that is refusing to moderate bad-faith actors who are poisoning the political landscape with far-right conspiracy theories while gutting the business model of traditional journalism?
Some have suggested Facebook can be healed with the assistance of government regulation. Others have funded startups attempting to build Facebook alternatives. But I want to humbly offer an alternate savior: Burger King. None other than the purveyor of the flame-broiled Whopper™ to save us from disinformation on the world’s largest social network.
In January 2009, Burger King launched a Facebook application: the Whopper Sacrifice app. There has been no greater piece of technology released in the last millenium, nor one which better encapsulates American values better than the Whopper Sacrifice app.
This app rewarded Facebook users who unfriended ten Facebook Friends with a Whopper sandwich, delivered via coupon in the mail. The app also notified the Facebook users who were unfriended, and explained they were cut off in exchange for some flame-broiled beef. Before the campaign was shut down by Burger King, nearly 234,000 Facebook friendships were ended for a Whopper, according to the New York Times.
Why not repurpose this app to discourage Facebook users from following or “Liking” the InfoWars Facebook page? What better motivator, or “carrot” can a Facebook user have, than beef?
Here is how Whopper Sacrifice 2.0 would work:
After agreeing to Whopper Sacrifice 2.0’s terms and conditions, the app would show the user all the friends that “Like’ the InfoWars page on Facebook. These users would be rewarded with a Whopper™ for unfriending each of these friends. The unfriendee would get a message: “You have been unfriended for following InfoWars. Did you know InfoWars’ owner Alex Jones was sued by the Sandy Hook families for claiming the massacre was a hoax put on by the government?”
If the Facebook user did not have any friends who “Like” the InfoWars Facebook page, they could still earn one Whopper™ for sharing a link to Whopper Sacrifice 2.0 as a comment on the InfoWars Facebook page.
The App would also have a “Red Meat Pill” feature. Any Facebook user who follows InfoWars would be offered a Burger King Whopper™ in exchange for sharing The Whopper Sacrifice 2.0 app on InfoWars’ Facebook page, then un-liking the InfoWars Facebook page.
Obviously, as Facebook knows far too well, there will be “bad actors” who will game the system. Tricksters may re-Like the InfoWars page after redeeming their coupon for a Burger King Whopper™. This is fine. The lethargy produced from consuming a fatty beef sandwich might at least stave off the need to promote conspiracies InfoWars serves up to its Facebook audience.
To be clear: I am not in the pocket of Big Whopper. The last time I ate Burger King was at the airport in India, and I’d only sacrifice two or three distant friends for that meal.
What's stopping this app from being a reality today? Nothing, except Facebook, its app guidelines, and Burger King’s unwillingness to respond to my calls and emails.
A spokesperson for Facebook told me the original Whopper Sacrifice App violated its platform policies, specifically section 4.4, by “not respecting the limits [it’s] placed on [its] functionality.” This section says “don’t show people who unfriended them” as an example of the app’s violation of the policy. The spokesperson told me that if Burger King removed this functionality it may have been in compliance.
When I asked Facebook if Burger King could reboot the app today with the above modification, the answer was not what I had hoped for. “We generally don’t allow developers to incentivize people to take actions on Facebook,” the spokesperson told me.
While we wait for Whopper Sacrifice 2.0 to come into existence, there is a bootstrap version available to all Facebook users today. Log into Facebook, go to the “InfoWars” page, and it will tell you which of your Friends “Like” this page. You can send them a message directly, stating your reason for terminating Facebook friendship, and then unfriend them. Then, you can buy a Whopper or similarly priced single-patty beef burger as a reward for your act.