Facebook: Still Literally The Worst

Facebook's Fight Against Fake News Was Undercut by Fear of Conservative Backlash

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company's decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people's feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It's unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

"They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, "there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics," and that "a lot of product decisions got caught up in that."

"The strength of our community depends on authentic communication."

"The news would be true if you people would just play nice."

The feedback we've gotten tells us that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most.

"Users tell us that things that they think are true make them happy."

"We rely heavily on the community to report content."

"We in the petrochemical industry rely heavily on the community to report toxic spills."

In a Facebook post published after the election, former Facebook product designer Bobby Goodlatte blamed the social network for boosting the visibility of "highly partisan, fact-light media," and for not taking bigger steps to combat the spread of fake news in the lead-up to the election. "A bias towards truth isn't an impossible goal for News Feed," he wrote. "But it's now clear that democracy suffers if our news feeds incentivize bullshit."


"Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea."

Move Fast & Break Democracy!

I don't know how Facebook thinks -- who could? But it might be something like this: The real engagement drivers are fun videos, viral things about human cultural identities, the world's largest banana splits, racist things, boobs, and things about aliens. Everyone is upset today that Macedonian teenagers searching for a quick buck wrote that Hillary Clinton had an FBI employee murdered. But what about tomorrow? Let's say you blocked all the publishers from Macedonia. Are you also going to take away the articles that say that healing crystals can lower blood pressure? What about if CBS Sunday Morning does a piece about angels? [...]

For Mark Zuckerberg to say that less than 1% of news on Facebook is a hoax is a little like saying that less than 1% of your brain is malignant cancer. It's not the 1% but the malignancy. It sounds like things are 99% okay, but it's actually a very bad diagnosis.

This is your irregularly-scheduled reminder:

If you work for Facebook, quit. It is morally indefensible for you to use your skills to make that company more powerful. By working there, you are making the world an objectively worse place. I'm sure you can find a job working for a company that you don't have to apologize for all the time.

You can do it. I believe in you.

Previously, previously, previously.

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8 Responses:

  1. If you work for facebook, quit. If you are a user of Facebook and are not required by absolute circumstance: close your account. Literally every time you wish someone a happy birthday or "like" a cute kitten post, you are putting another penny into the pockets of Peter Thiel, Palmer Luckey and god only knows how many more neoreactionary scumbags who are only too happy to take your money in order to buy the rope they're going to use to hang you.

    Remember: twitter has Nazis. Facebook funds them.

  2. MattyJ says:

    So, "Bobby Goodlatte"? Made up? Is anybody else seeing this?

  3. I see nothing unusual here.

  4. Not Frank says:

    Even more herp derp for your "enjoyment": https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/11/17/facebook-fake-news-writer-i-think-donald-trump-is-in-the-white-house-because-of-me/?tid=sm_tw

    Apparently 1984 got it wrong. It's online advertising stamping on a human face, forever.

    See also: http://escapepod.org/2013/05/16/ep396-dead-merchandise/

  5. Lorah says:

    I used to agree with the sentiment that smart/talented people should deprive undeserving entities of their skills, but over time I have come to the opposite conclusion: it is ultimately better for society for good people to be in corrupt/problematic organizations because at least they have a chance of turning it around from the inside. When all of the (morally) good people leave, things just get worse. People who are trying to do good things get worn down by the effects of corruption but the best way to fight that is to have a support network of people who have your back, who will fight with you to do the right thing.

    In fact I'm going to take this to the teapot circling the earth level: I think that society is done a disservice by artists/socially conscious people who make a point of exiting the mainstream and living underground. Instead I would love to see good people amass money and power so that they have the power to shape the world and not just rail impotently against injustice.

    Don't exit the game, be a better player.

    • jwz says:

      Maybe, but this also sounds a lot like "Snowden should have gone through proper channels".

      The people doing the work -- and consequently doing the damage -- typically have absolutely no influence over policy.

      Some times the only way to win is not to play.

      • Lorah says:

        Snowden is too complicated an issue to use as a simple example--I have in mind simpler examples such as being in the police force or running for office. We create our own reality and not just in a new agey way when we constantly talk about how terrible and corrupt police are without acknowledging that it is a hard job and that there are also good police that don't get much support. In some occupations the main upside for some people is feeling like they are a good person and doing the right thing--if you take that away, the good people start to leave, allowing the cess pool to fester.

        I'm not saying that we shouldn't criticize/call people out on their bullshit--im saying that in addition to that we should try to be more supportive of good people in difficult/complicated situations.

        Of course the remaining problem is that nuance is difficult for people to parse. It is hard to support the right people when most people don't have the resources to understand what is actually going on.

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