Fb is taking part in protection after WSJ studies of failure to guard customers
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Facebook, leaves the Merrion Hotel in Dublin after meeting with Irish politicians to discuss social media regulation, transparency in political advertising and the safety of young people and vulnerable adults. On Tuesday 2nd April 2019, in Dublin, Ireland.
Artur Widak | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Facebook spent the weekend on the defensive after a series of reports in the Wall Street Journal last week revealed how far the company has gone to put profits above the health and safety of its billions of users.
It’s a familiar pattern to those who have followed the social networking giant over the past several years. Troubling anecdotes about Facebook and the behavior of its executives are published by a major news agency, followed by a firestorm of criticism and threats from lawmakers to regulate the company and summon top executives to Congress.
Then Facebook apologizes half-heartedly, but not before shaking the accuracy of the reporting and blaming the leakers, who in this case were employees of the company. On Saturday, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, posted a blog post entitled “What the Wall Street Journal Did Wrong – On Facebook” after the journal’s in-depth series.
The Journal’s investigation has shown that Facebook has repeatedly failed to properly address critical issues highlighted in internal studies of its own employees, such as how the most contradicting content appears in so many news feeds due to its high level of engagement. The reports come two months after President Joe Biden said Facebook was “killing people” with misinformation about Covid-19 and vaccines, and after the company struggled to come up with a consistent message for handling incorrect information about the 2020 election.
The issues highlighted by the Journal coincide with what Facebook critics have long said: executives are consumed with revenue growth and engagement.
One of the stories said that CEO Mark Zuckerberg received a recommendation from an employee about a change the company could make to reduce the algorithmic boost for malicious content that was getting eyeballs and oversized attention. Zuckerberg responded by telling the employee he would reject the proposal if it significantly impacted user interactions, the report said.
In a separate article, the Journal outlined how Facebook has ignored or ignored the mental health problems caused by Instagram, especially among teenage girls. Facebook knew about the problems because the conclusions were drawn from its own research. Not only have the company not made any improvements, they are now planning a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13.
One thing that Facebook tested as a potential solution for Instagram was hiding likes. After experimenting with the idea, Facebook found that it didn’t improve anything. However, the company decided to introduce likes-hiding as an option for users, as it “would be perceived by the press and parents as a strong positive sign that Instagram cares about its users,” Facebook executives wrote, according to the report.
Another Journal report found that Facebook rarely addresses issues in markets outside of the U.S. because there aren’t enough people speaking the local language or dialect to identify the issues. Hence, there are places where anti-vaccine misinformation and other lies and conspiracy theories overrun the website.
For a $ 1 trillion company, with sales of $ 86 billion, and nearly $ 30 billion in profits, the inability to hire the right experts is a poor excuse.
Facebook defended itself as so often. The company accused the journal of misrepresenting its actions and implying extremely wrong motives from its managers and employees.
“Facebook is aware of the significant responsibility that comes with operating a global platform,” Clegg wrote in response to the series. “We take it seriously and do not shy away from scrutiny and criticism. But we fundamentally reject this incorrect characterization of our work and contestation of corporate motives.”
However, Clegg did not refute any specific facts reported by the Journal, as noted by the newspaper’s own reporters. And if the past is a sign of that, we shouldn’t expect dramatic changes from Facebook as long as investors keep buying its stocks and regulators don’t act.
A Facebook rep had no comment beyond the blog post but said, “We have also worked with WSJ reporters to make sure our responses get on the series.”
SEE: Facebook is facing a congressional investigation into its impact on teenagers and children