Facebook whistleblower highlights toxic pattern on social media
Earlier this month, a former Facebook employee named Frances Haugen revealed privileged information about the social media giant in CBS’s “60 Minutes”. On the show, Haugen unearthed several internal documents that reveal what she believed was a company’s misconduct. The documents showed that Facebook’s management was aware of many of the negative consequences of the algorithms they use to make content recommendations and most importantly, deliver company-sponsored content to their users.
Some of the documents in the report also show that Facebook executives had access to internal research showing that one of their subsidiaries, Instagram, had negative psychological effects on teenage girls who became picture obsessed with frequent use of the app. The documents also reiterated that Facebook’s problems are not confined to the United States, showing that the company was aware that its platforms were the main communication hubs for ethnic violence and hate speech against Muslims in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, countries , in which Facebook invests very little in content moderation, although in both countries almost everyone who is connected to the Internet uses Facebook as their main communication platform.
These are just a few examples and they certainly indicate a problem in the way we interact with social media in our daily lives and many people feel that Facebook is having a negative impact on our society as a whole.
“I firmly believe that Facebook had a negative impact on society. Just look at the recent presidential election and the uncertainty that came with it from misinformation and disinformation on social media, ”said Brian Wright, senior at DePaul’s College of Communication.
In the end, Haugen copied over 10,000 of these documents from Facebook’s internal research and communications. This is certainly a formidable operation for a person secretly performed in one of the largest corporations in the world, but what really did we learn that the public hasn’t told Facebook in years?
In her interview with “60 Minutes”, Haugen said: “What I kept seeing on Facebook were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook has always decided to optimize for its own interests, such as making more money. “
The question that needs to be asked is that of power and corporate responsibility. How much power does Facebook really have over our daily lives? Is this power real or manifest? And what other responsibility does Facebook, a publicly traded company, have to the public besides making money for its shareholders? Many people would like to believe that Facebook is some kind of social public service that the government can regulate in response to this whistleblower complaint, or they would like the government to regulate it in a similar way to the big tobacco lobby after their own whistleblower reveal comes up “60 minutes” in the 1990s.
Unfortunately, this may not be as suitable for comparison as many of us would like, since the nature of a company like Facebook is very different from that of a large tobacco company or public utility, and the company’s international activity and user base make it so very difficult to regulate.
“The reality here is that these are multinational corporations now, and that makes it very difficult for the US government to regulate them on its own. Also, these services have become an integral part of many people’s personal and professional lives, so changing regulation would be very difficult, ”Samantha Close, DePaul professor of communications studies, told The DePaulia.
Where is that for us? We understand that there is a problem with malicious political and hate speech at Facebook and other related media companies, and we also understand that the algorithms that filter content on these platforms are designed to promote such content because it is divisive and generate quite a lot. “Meaningful Social Impressions” in the comments (also known as rumbling political battles).
However, we also need to take into account the advantages of these services and algorithms, e.g. For example, that a small family business can sell and scale its products across the country, or that people are directed to social groups that correspond to their interests, and they may create themselves less alienated in the world and give them a sense of community.
The bottom line is that Facebook and its related apps and algorithms are getting nowhere for the foreseeable future, and due to the company’s international focus and the public good it offers despite many observable negative results, we cannot rely on Congress meaningful measures implemented. Changes for the company and the industry as a whole. This change has to come from within, but that will only come with pressure from us, the general public, and not just from Facebook, but also from their biggest advertisers.
If the whistleblower Frances Haugen is right that Facebook always puts its profits above the public good, then it is up to all of us as everyday citizens to achieve gradual changes, for example by buying less on their marketplace and receiving our news and information from alternative news feeds (Apple News, Flipboard etc) and by having our “meaningful social interactions” on Facebook / Instagram pages that promote positive content (Tanks Good News, UpWorthy etc). At the end of the day, it will only be our actions that can show Facebook that they can only make a profit if they direct those profits for the common good.
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