Inside the Two Years that Shook Facebook

wired-cover-2018-facebook-zuckerbergFacebook has been shaken to its core as it came to grips with being perhaps the most powerful media outlet in the world. Among other things, the company grappled with claims of liberal political bias, accusations that it was destroying the free press, and outrage that it had sold ads to Russians trying to influence the 2016 election. What was it like inside the company as these crises unfolded? How has Facebook changed as a result? What is it doing now to address its shortcomings?

WIRED’s Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein spoke with more than 50 current or former Facebook employees to answer these questions in an enthrallingly detailed article titled “Inside the Two Years that Shook Facebook.” Thompson and Vogelstein realized in October that they were both interested in writing features on different aspects of the epic tale, so they decided to team up. Having worked together on “The Plot to Kill Google” in 2009, they knew it would be a happy marriage. The result is an investigative tour de force.

Source: Mark Robinson on Facebook’s two years of hell via WIRED

Facebook Now Ghetto of Fake News, Censorship and Foreign Interference

Years of limited oversight and unchecked growth have turned Facebook into a force with incredible power over the lives of its 2 billion users. But the social network has given rise to unintended social consequences, and they’re starting to catch up with it.

Facebook is behind the curve in understanding that “what happens in their system has profound consequences in the real world,” said Fordham University media-studies professor Paul Levinson. The company’s knee-jerk response has often been “none of your business” when confronted about these consequences, he said.

That response may not work much longer for a company whose original but now-abandoned slogan — “move fast and break things” — still seems to govern it.

“There’s a general arrogance — they know what’s right, they know what’s best, we know how to make better for you so just let us do it,” said Notre Dame professor Timothy Carone, who added that it’s true of Silicon Valley giants in general. “They need to take a step down and acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers.”

Source: Voice of America

Obama on News Algorithms: At Some Point You Just Live in a Bubble

In the first episode of the new Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, former President Barack Obama reflects on political tensions and life after the White House, and Dave visits Selma with Representative John Lewis.

Obama: One of the biggest challenges we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts. What the Russians exploited (but was already here) is that we operate in completely different information universes.

Letterman: I was under the impression that Twitter would be the mechanism by which truth was told around the world.

Obama: If you are getting all your information off algorithms being sent through a phone, and it’s just reinforcing whatever biases you have, which is the pattern that develops… And that gets more reinforced over time.

That’s what’s happening with these Facebook pages where more and more people are getting their news from. At a certain point you just live in a bubble. And that’s part of why our politics is so polarized right now. I think it is a solvable problem, but I think it’s one that we have to spend a lot of time thinking about.

Letterman: It seems like a valuable tool that has turned against us.

Source: Netflix

Why People Leave Facebook

This 2013 HuffPost article on why folks leave Facebook is strangely coercive and symptomatic of a sort of Stockholm syndrome that’s infested marketing for years.

hiatus

A “toxic shock” has resulted from the algorithmic infection proliferated by News Feed, Google Search and other neocolonialist forms of digital content curation. The simple fact that Facebook impairs the ability to obtain objective information and engage meaningfully is reason enough to keep the social network at arm’s length.

As of 2014, all HuffPost comments are on Facebook’s system. This implies a conflict of interest for editors who would promote opinions that portray the network in a bad light. A smart move by a social network in crisis control mode, managing how millions of left-leaning millennials learn and share about it.

Facebook founders have since come out against the social network, admitting to what many suspect: that Facebook is, as a hacker might say, designed to exploit a vulnerability in human psychology. But we’re here. What happens now?

Want to bypass the drama and create a stronger bond with your audience?

  1. Expand your reach to additional platforms;
  2. Facilitate and implement diversified content streams;
  3. Go deeper with your engagement;
  4. Start a podcast;
  5. Set up a listserv for each demographic or interest you serve; and
  6. Most importantly, be proactive, listen, and reciprocate.

More on Facebook’s house of cards here. Have your own story? Please share.

A Former Facebook Manager’s Scathing Rebuke

Sandy Parakilas, a former operations manager at Facebook, recounts a third-party developer taking user information to create unauthorized Facebook profiles for real children. Facebook executives took little action in response. As Parakilas points out, Facebook has no business interest in regulating its advertisers or safeguarding its customer data from abuse. That’s because its advertising model is built on automation that serves up vast amounts of consumer data, rewards emotionally engaging content and makes it easy for anyone to spend a few cents on an ad.

Source: USA Today

Social Media and Psychological Health

Major social media companies now extend beyond apps and platforms, taking on the status of infrastructures and institutions. [As such, they] ought to consult with trained social researchers to design interfaces, implement policies, and understand the implications of their products. Social media are not just things people use, places they go to, or activities they do. Social media shape the flows of social life, structure civic engagement, and integrate with affect, identity and selfhood.

Source: Jenny Davis (Cyborgology) via The Society Pages

David Kirkpatrick: Nightmare Net Scenario ‘Already Happening’

Facebook’s Newsfeed and Google’s search results are the two most central sources of digital information for the world. For each of them, all decisions about what information is given priority and visibility are made by one commercial company whose primary goal is ad revenue and profit. There is no consultation with the public, no regulatory oversight, and no recourse for errors or distortions.

The least neutral places on the internet are the Newsfeed and Google search. There are no such mechanisms that might deter, regulate, or formally disclose distortions that arise from the Newsfeed and Google search. No credible proposals are being discussed anywhere that would address the absolute control these still-growing net colossi have over the public dialogue.

Source: David Kirkpatrick via Techonomy

Zuck Hopes You Like Shoe Ads

Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to work “proactively to strengthen the democratic process,” outlining specific steps to “make political advertising more transparent. We’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency.”

This pledge is the reverse of another announcement Facebook made the same day, unveiling a new set of tools businesses can use to target users who visit their stores: Now the experience of briefly visiting Zappos.com and finding yourself haunted by shoe ads could have an offline equivalent produced by a visit to your local shoe store.

Source: New York Magazine