The Facebook Papers, a consortium of news agencies, have released a huge track record of documents provided by whistleblower Frances Haugen. Reporting, by Reuters, Bloomberg, The Washington Post And others, painting a picture of a company that repeatedly sought to dominate user safety and prioritize profits. However, despite warnings from a large number of employees, it was clear that the company’s focus on engagement puts users at risk of real-world violence.
The Washington PostFor example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that when he dropped reports that the site had spread hate speech to testify to Congress, he was aware that the problem was far more widespread than publicly. Internal documents viewed by Post It has been claimed that social networks have removed less than five percent of hate speech, and executives – including Zuckerberg – are well aware that Facebook is polarizing people. Claims have already been rejected by Facebook, which says the documents were misrepresented.
Zuckerberg has also been accused of plotting to launch a Spanish-language voter registration campaign in the United States ahead of the 2020 election. He said the plan could be “biased”, with WhatsApp staff subsequently providing a water-down version of the partnership with outside companies. The CEO was also known to be behind the decision not to press COVID-19 misinformation in the early stages of the epidemic because “there could be material transactions with MSI. [Meaningful Social Interaction — an internal Facebook metric] Effect. Facebook has denied the allegations, saying the document was inaccurate.
Reuters Reported that Facebook has consistently neglected several developing countries, allowing hate speech and extremism to develop. This includes not hiring enough staff who can speak the local language, appreciate the cultural context, and otherwise be effectively moderate. The result is that the company has unreasonable beliefs in automatic restraint systems that are ineffective in non-English-speaking countries. Again, Facebook has denied allegations that it is neglecting their users in their territory.
One specific area that has been identified as a concern is Myanmar, where Facebook has been blamed for increasing local tensions. A 2020 document suggests that the company’s automatic moderation system cannot identify problematic terms (local language) in Burmese. (Note that, two years ago, Facebook Myanmar has failed to work properly to prevent civil unrest A report on Business for Social Responsibility.)
Similarly, Facebook does not have the tools to detect hate speech in Ethiopian Oromo or Amharic. Facebook says it is working to expand its content restraint team and has recruited Oromo, Amharic and Burmese speakers (as well as other languages) over the past two years.
New York Times, Reports that Facebook’s internal research was well aware that the Like and Share function – a key element of how the platform works – accelerated the spread of hate speech. A document titled What is Collateral Damage states that Facebook’s failure to address these issues could allow the company to “actively (if not necessarily consciously) promote such activity.” Facebook says that, again, these statements are based on false premise, and that it would be unreasonable for the company to actively seek to harm its users.
BloombergMeanwhile, Facebook’s engagement metrics have focused on an expected decline. Younger people, a key target market for advertisers, are spending less time on Facebook’s platform, less teens prefer to sign up. At the same time, the number of users may be artificially increased in this age group, users choose to create multiple accounts – “Finstas” – for different groups to differentiate their online personalities. Haugen complained that Facebook had “misrepresented key metrics for investors and advertisers” and that duplicate accounts were leading to “widespread fraud” against advertisers. Facebook says it has already notified advertisers that the purchases will reach the duplicate account at its Help Center, and the issue will be listed in its SEC filing.
Weekend Axios Reported that Facebook Sir Nick Clegg Warned that the site will expect “worse headlines” next week. Among the elements available in the Facebook papers, another round of Frances Haugen’s testimony in the UK later today and rumors of more whistleblowers are coming to the fore, perhaps Facebook will be in the headlines for some time.
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