Sunday, October 17

The wave of evidence about its toxic impact on society swallows Facebook


Facebook refocuses international attention. A new string of disclosures with internal company documents, notes from its top executives and leaks from its employees hits her. The investigations show the toxic impact that their platforms have on society, as has happened successively since the Cambrige Analytica scandal of 2017. The difference in this case is that the evidence on the table also shows that Facebook knows the situation, hides it and It lies if it is necessary to build a facade of social commitment that its workers and leaders know is far from being real.

Facebook’s loophole that allows world leaders to deceive and harass their citizens

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The new storm began ten days ago with a publication of the Wall street journal (WSJ) which revealed that Facebook has a list of VIP users that it allows to break the rules it imposes on the rest. The social network is interested in having them as members, so it turns a blind eye. As for example when the soccer player Neymar Jr. published on Instagram intimate photos and private messages of a woman who had denounced him for rape without any repercussions for him.

“Unlike the rest of our community, these people can violate our standards without any consequence,” explained several sources from the company to the US media. An internal Facebook review discovered the situation in 2019 and reported it to the top, who let it be. “This problem is ubiquitous, touching almost all areas of the company,” the same sources detailed: “We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly.”

But the WSJ had discovered much more. In the second installment of an investigation that has titled The Facebook archives, The medium revealed that the corporation knows that Instagram ends up being toxic for one in three teenagers. And he knows this because he commissioned an internal study, the results of which were presented to senior executives with a summary slide that reached reporters.

“We make body image problems worse for one in three teenage girls,” read one of those slides. “Comparisons on Instagram can change the way teenage girls see and describe themselves,” revealed another. “Teenagers blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” the presentation continued. Facebook has denied over time that it has data that Instagram has a negative impact on young people. Employees who leaked the documents warn that he also did nothing to change the situation once he was fully aware of it. The results of the study remained secret.

The Journal has published five installments of The Facebook archives and they all follow this pattern. Social network workers discovering that the platform is used for drug and human trafficking in developing countries who receive a “lukewarm response” from the company; campaigns to encourage immunization against the coronavirus that fail due to the ability of anti-vaccines to use the platform to their advantage; or algorithms to reduce polarization and hate speech that end up causing the opposite and that Facebook maintains because they hook users and that means money in your pocket.

Sorry not sorry

Facebook had already been accused before of some of the most serious acts of which a private company can be accused. Behind her back she not only has spots such as the Cambridge Analytica electoral manipulation scandal, but others such as having been denounced by the UN for having played a key role in the genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar and having done nothing to prevent it.

What the new revelations have contributed is the evidence that the response that Facebook gives to these types of accusations, asking for forgiveness and promising to improve, is false. Part of an advertising and out-of-doors discourse that does not transcend your strategy as a company. “Time and again, documents show that Facebook researchers have identified the harmful effects of the platform. Time and again, despite congressional hearings, their own promises, and numerous complaints from the media. , the company did not solve them “, emphasizes the WSJ.

Time and again, documents show that Facebook researchers have identified the harmful effects of the platform. Time and time again, the company didn’t fix them

“The documents offer perhaps the clearest picture so far of how the problems of Facebook are known within the company, even the CEO himself,” adds the prestigious media. Mark Zuckerberg was the protagonist of many of the apology actions, before the US Congress or the MEPs in Brussels. The reality was that when he returned to his offices he was reluctant to apply changes to the algorithms to provoke less anger and anger in users, fearing that interactions would decrease, the leaked documents now show.

A plan to hide toxicity, not correct it

Zuckerberg’s will was not to improve Facebook and Instagram, but to hide how harmful they could be. The New York Times has published this Wednesday more internal information that shows that the social network approved this year to change the algorithm of the News Feed (or Wall) to boost the visibility of positive news about Facebook. The idea is simple: if they cannot change the perception of Facebook that comes from outside, it will use its weapons to influence its users from within.

The change is part of a broader strategy to change tactics in the face of repeated negative information about the company and internal document leaks. There will be no more requests for forgiveness from Zuckerberg. Employees and former employees of the company believe that this apology policy has exacerbated the supervision over Facebook, which they consider superior to that received by other multinationals in the sector such as Google or Twitter. “They are realizing that no one else is going to come to their defense, so they have to do it and say it themselves,” says Katie Harbath, former director of public policy at Facebook.

Zuckerberg’s response to this new revelation from the Times is proof of the policy shift. Normally with an austere profile and even dialogue at times regarding media investigations, this time Zuckerberg has used the article to make a joke at his expense: “Look, it’s one thing for the media to say false things about my work, but it’s crossing the line to say I’m riding an electric surfboard when that video clearly shows a hydrofoil that I’m pumping with my own legs. ”


The founder of Facebook was referring to a video he published on July 4, US Independence Day, riding on a surfboard with a hydrofoil, a device that can detach from the surface of the water when speeding up. Zuckerberg carried a US flag while surfing and added the country song as the soundtrack. Take Me Home, Country Roadsby John Denver. The New York Times framed this video in Zuckerberg’s new public attitude.

Facebook’s official response to the WSJ revelations came from Nick Clegg, the former UK Deputy Prime Minister whom Zuckerberg signed specifically to deal with such controversies and their political spinoffs. In a somewhat confused response, Clegg did not deny the authenticity of the internal studies and documents that the news outlet has published. What is false, he claims, is that Facebook systematically ignores them.

“Just because not all of the ideas a researcher come up with are being put into practice does not mean that Facebook teams are not continually considering a number of different enhancements,” assured in a statement the company’s blog. In turn, he stressed that “more research is needed to determine how social networks impact people.”

Clegg’s argument contrasts with the fact that Facebook systematically denies any requests from independent researchers and academics who ask to analyze the system from the inside and without strings attached. Also with another of the revelations about the multinational that have occurred in recent days: how the specialized media discovered The Markup, Facebook has implemented changes to its News Feed that block the ability for regulators and researchers to monitor the platform with external tools.



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