Company froze as anti-vaccine comments swarmed users – Big Tech Too Big

Company froze as anti-vaccine comments swarmed users

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Facebook is no complete stranger to the conflict of public relations issues, whistleblowers, and even the democratic process. Facebook has an agenda other than to “offer people the power to develop neighborhood and bring the world more detailed together.”

It now appears like together with ditching the “It’s complimentary and constantly will be” motto from its homepage, it has also ended up being clear that “Facebook misinformed investors and the general public about its role perpetuating misinformation and violent extremism associating with the 2020 election and January 6th insurrection.”– Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen

Dripped documents had actually started appearing in the Wall Street Journal and sensational observations started to stand out of lawmakers worldwide.

There have been scandals concerning how Facebook manages its approach to data privacy. Material small amounts and policy surrounding hate speech and the silencing of specific groups have actually also come under the microscope. The “Facebook Papers” nevertheless, and the many stories surely still to come from their introduction into the general public world, discuss deeper issues about Facebook as a whole. Facebook’s approach to combating hate speech and false information, handling worldwide development, protecting more youthful users on its platform, and even its capability to precisely determine the size of its enormous audience are all now put on major blast.

As we view this massive business dodge and weave away such claims, one thing stays really obvious. Facebook has become too huge to fail! The question we have to ask is … are they actually capable of managing the “real-world” damages from its terribly big platforms?

Company froze as anti-vaccine comments swarmed users – Data Integrity

In March, as claims about the dangers and ineffectiveness of coronavirus vaccines spun across social media and undermined attempts to stop the spread of the virus, some Facebook employees thought they had found a way to help.

By subtly altering how posts about vaccines are ranked in people’s newsfeeds, researchers at the company realized they could curtail the misleading information individuals saw about COVID-19 vaccines and offer users posts from legitimate sources like the World Health Organization.

“Given these results, I’m assuming we’re hoping to launch ASAP,” one Facebook employee wrote in March, responding to the internal memo about the study.

Instead, Facebook shelved some suggestions from the study. Other changes weren’t made until April.

RELATED: What is the Facebook Papers project?: Everything you need to know

When another Facebook researcher suggested disabling comments on vaccine posts in March until the platform could do a better job of tackling anti-vaccine messages lurking in them, that proposal was ignored.

Critics say Facebook was slow to act because it worried it might impact the company’s profits.

“Why would you not remove comments? Because engagement is the only thing that matters,” said Imran Ahmed, the CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, an internet watchdog group. “It drives attention and attention equals eyeballs and eyeballs equal ad revenue.”

In an emailed statement, Facebook said it has made “considerable progress” this year with downgrading vaccine misinformation in users’ feeds.


A picture taken on Oct. 12, 2021, in Moscow shows the online social media and social networking service Facebook’s logo on a smartphone screen. (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Facebook’s internal discussions were revealed in disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal counsel. The redacted versions received by Congress were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Associated Press.

The trove of documents shows that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook carefully investigated how its platforms spread misinformation about life-saving vaccines. They also reveal rank-and-file employees regularly suggested solutions for countering anti-vaccine misinformation on the site, to no avail. The Wall Street Journal reported on some of Facebook’s efforts to deal with antivaccine comments last month.

The inaction raises questions about whether Facebook prioritized controversy and division over the health of its users.

“These people are selling fear and outrage,” said Roger McNamee, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and early investor in Facebook who is now a vocal critic. “It is not a fluke. It is a business model.”

Typically, Facebook ranks posts by engagement — the total number of likes, dislikes, comments and reshares. That ranking scheme may work well for innocuous subjects like recipes, dog photos or the latest viral singalong. But Facebook’s own documents show that when it comes to divisive, contentious issues like vaccines, engagement-based ranking only emphasizes polarization, disagreement and doubt.

To study ways to reduce vaccine misinformation, Facebook researchers changed how posts are ranked for more than 6,000 users in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines. Instead of seeing posts about vaccines that were chosen based on their engagement, these users saw posts selected for their trustworthiness.

The results were striking: a nearly 12% decrease in content that made claims debunked by fact-checkers and an 8% increase in content from authoritative public health organizations such as the WHO or U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Employees at the company reacted with exuberance, according to internal exchanges.

“Is there any reason we wouldn’t do this?” one Facebook employee wrote in response.

RELATED: Facebook papers: Apple threatened to ban app over Mideast maid abuse

Facebook said it did implement many of the study’s findings — but not for another month, a delay that came at a pivotal stage of the global vaccine rollout.

In a statement, company spokeswoman Dani Lever said the internal documents “don’t represent the considerable progress we have made since that time in promoting reliable information about COVID-19 and expanding our policies to remove more harmful COVID and vaccine misinformation.”

The company also said it took time to consider and implement the changes.

Yet the need to act urgently couldn’t have been clearer: At that time, states across the U.S. were rolling out vaccines to their most vulnerable — the elderly and sick. And public health officials were worried. Only 10% of the population had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. And a third of Americans were thinking about skipping the shot entirely, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Despite this, Facebook employees acknowledged they had “no idea” just how bad anti-vaccine sentiment was in the comments sections on Facebook posts. But company research in February found that as much as 60% of the comments on vaccine posts were anti-vaccine or vaccine reluctant.

Even worse, company employees admitted they didn’t have a handle on catching those comments, or a policy in place to take them down.

“Our ability to detect (vaccine hesitancy) in comments is bad in English — and basically non-existent elsewhere,” another internal memo posted on March 2 said.

RELATED: Facebook: Language gaps weaken platform’s screening of hate, terrorism

Los Angeles resident Derek Beres, an author and fitness instructor, sees anti-vaccine content thrive in the comments every time he promotes immunizations on his accounts on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Last year, Beres began hosting a podcast after noticing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and vaccines were swirling on the social media feeds of health and wellness influencers.

Earlier this year, when Beres posted a picture of himself receiving the COVID-19 shot, some on social media told him he would likely drop dead in six months’ time.

“The comments section is a dumpster fire for so many people,” Beres said.

Some Facebook employees suggested disabling all commenting on vaccine posts while the company worked on a solution.

“Very interested in your proposal to remove ALL in-line comments for vaccine posts as a stopgap solution until we can sufficiently detect vaccine hesitancy in comments to refine our removal,” one Facebook employee wrote on March 2.

The suggestion went nowhere.

Instead, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on March 15 that the company would start labeling posts about vaccines that described them as safe.

RELATED: Facebook to label COVID-19 vaccine posts to combat misinformation

The move allowed Facebook to continue to get high engagement — and ultimately profit — off anti-vaccine comments, said Ahmed of the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

“Facebook has taken decisions which have led to people receiving misinformation which caused them to die,” Ahmed said. “At this point, there should be a murder investigation.”


Seitz reported from Columbus, Ohio.

From our friends at:

From Facebook – It must be rough when your own platform has so many negative things to embed.

facebook is in trouble

Facebook attempts to turn the page

Facebook, for its part, has actually consistently tried to reject Haugen and stated her testimony and reports on the files mischaracterize its actions and efforts.

“At the heart of these stories is a facility which is false,” a Facebook spokesperson stated in a declaration to CNN. “Yes, we’re a service and we make a profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellness misinterprets where our own industrial interests lie.”
In a tweet thread recently, the business’s Vice President of Communications, John Pinette, called the Facebook Documents a “curated choice out of millions of files at Facebook” which “can in no chance be used to draw reasonable conclusions about us.” But even that reaction is telling—- if Facebook has more documents that would inform a fuller story, why not launch them? (During her Senate testimony Facebook’s Davis stated Facebook is “trying to find ways to launch more research study.”).

A chest of internal Facebook documents leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen has begun a wave of protection of the business, beginning with the Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” and now as a consortium of other wire service roll out stories on the exact same files.

A chest of internal Facebook files dripped by whistleblower Frances Haugen has actually begun a wave of coverage of the company, starting with the Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” and now as a consortium of other wire service present stories on the exact same documents.

Instead, Facebook is now supposedly planning to rebrand itself under a brand-new name as early as today, as the wave of important coverage continues. (Facebook formerly declined to comment on this report.) The move appears to be a clear attempt to turn the page, however a fresh coat of paint will not fix the underlying problems laid out in the files– just Facebook, or whatever it may quickly be called, can do that.

Take the example of a report published by the Journal on September 16 that highlighted internal Facebook research study about a violent Mexican drug cartel, understood as Cartél Jalisco Nueva Generación. The cartel was stated to be using the platform to post violent material and hire brand-new members utilizing the acronym “CJNG,” although it had actually been designated internally as one of the “Dangerous People and Organizations” whose content need to be eliminated. Facebook told the Journal at the time that it was purchasing expert system to bolster its enforcement versus such groups.
In spite of the Journal’s report last month, CNN last week recognized disturbing content connected to the group on Instagram, including pictures of guns, and picture and video posts in which individuals appear to have been shot or beheaded. After CNN asked Facebook about the posts, a representative verified that multiple videos CNN flagged were removed for breaking the company’s policies, and at least one post had a warning added.

Facebook understood it was being utilized to prompt violence in Ethiopia. It did little to stop the spread, files reveal.

Haugen has recommended Facebook’s failure to fix such issues is in part because it prioritizes profit over societal good, and, in many cases, since the business does not have the capacity to put out its lots of fires at as soon as.
” Facebook is extremely thinly staffed … and this is due to the fact that there are a lot of technologists that look at what Facebook has actually done and their objection to accept obligation, and people simply aren’t happy to work there,” Haugen said in a rundown with the “Facebook Documents” consortium last week. “So they have to make really, very, extremely intentional choices on what does or doesn’t get achieved.”.

Facebook has invested a total of $13 billion because 2016 to improve the safety of its platforms, according to the company representative. (By comparison, the business’s yearly earnings topped $85 billion last year and its revenue struck $29 billion.) The representative also said Facebook has “40,000 individuals dealing with the security and security on our platform, including 15,000 individuals who evaluate content in more than 70 languages operating in more than 20 locations all throughout the world to support our neighborhood.”.
” We have actually likewise taken down over 150 networks seeking to control public argument because 2017, and they have originated in over 50 nations, with the majority originating from or focused beyond the US,” the representative said. “Our track record shows that we crackdown on abuse outside the US with the very same strength that we apply in the US.”.

Still, the files recommend that the business has much more work to do to get rid of all of the many damages laid out in the files and to resolve the unintentional repercussions of Facebook’s unmatched reach and integration into our every day lives.

How Facebook Is Attempting To Keep Users.

Facebook executives recently admitted that younger teens are abandoning the website for more recent mobile messaging and social sharing apps, while a study from earlier this year discovered that the social network lost 11 million active users in general in the U.S. and Britain. Here are some alternatives Facebook is considering to keep its existing users and recover those who have actually defected:.

Zuckerberg’s public claims frequently contrast with internal research.

Haugen references Zuckerberg’s public statements a minimum of 20 times in her SEC grievances, asserting that the CEO’s unique degree of control over Facebook forces him to bear supreme responsibility for a litany of societal harms caused by the business’s ruthless pursuit of growth.

The files also show that Zuckerberg’s public statements are often at chances with internal company findings.

Zuckerberg testified last year prior to Congress that the business eliminates 94 percent of the hate speech it discovers. In internal files, scientists approximated that the business was removing less than 5 percent of all hate speech on Facebook.

Facebook spokesperson Dani Lever denied that Zuckerberg “makes decisions that trigger harm” and dismissed the findings, saying they are “based on selected files that are mischaracterized and without any context.”.

It isn’t clear whether the SEC is investigating Facebook or whether it would see adequate material in the disclosures to necessitate an examination of whether the company could have deceived financiers. In a yearly report, the SEC said it got over 6,900 whistleblower ideas in the financial year ending September 2020.

A number of securities law professionals said it would not be simple to prove misbehavior.

” Regulators like tidy cases and they like where someone is on tape doing something wrong,” said Joshua Mitts, a securities law teacher at Columbia University. Haugen’s accusations are barely a “tidy case,” he said.

Facebook pushback.

Facebook’s public relations chief last week stated Haugen’s disclosures were an “orchestrated ‘gotcha’ campaign” directed by her public relations advisors.

” A curated selection out of millions of documents at Facebook can in no chance be used to draw reasonable conclusions about us,” Facebook’s vice president for interactions, John Pinette, stated in a tweet ahead of the release of the Haugen disclosures.

” Internally, we share work in progress and dispute choices. Not every suggestion withstands the examination we should apply to choices affecting numerous individuals,” Pinette stated.

Haugen has actually gotten assistance from public relations and experienced attorneys advisers. A company run by Expense Burton, an Obama White Home spokesperson, is dealing with media requests, and Haugen is represented by legal representatives from Whistleblower Help, a nonprofit organization.

The disclosures made by Haugen’s attorneys illustrate a roiling internal dispute at Facebook at the same time it has actually been in an extreme external spotlight, with congressional hearings, privacy examinations, antitrust suits, and other scrutiny by outsiders.

And the turmoil may show a larger threat than any external analysis since Facebook relies for its success on being able to attract and keep a few of the world’s top software engineers and technologists. If the business can’t bring in, maintain and motivate talented workers, it could lose its capability to compete effectively, it stated in its newest yearly report in January.

A Facebook worker wrote on an internal message board on Jan. 6: “We have been dealing with concerns we can’t respond to from our buddies, family, and market coworkers for many years. Hiring, in specific, has gotten more challenging for many years as Facebook’s ethical track record continues to deteriorate (all while our technical credibility continues to increase).”.

Facebook stated in a declaration that 83 percent of its employees say they ‘d suggest it as a fantastic place to work and that it has employed more staff members this year than in any previous year.

Causing ‘social-civil war’.
Another set of Haugen’s files describes how the computer system algorithm behind Facebook’s news feed– the formula that identifies what posts people see and in which order– resulted in unintended consequences over years and months.

Facebook revealed that it would reword the algorithm in January 2018, saying it would stress “significant social interactions” and give more weight to remarks, reactions, and re-shares amongst good friends, rather than posts from businesses and brands.

By the next year, the changes had resounded throughout European politics.

Facebook was responsible for a “social-civil war” in online political discourse in Poland, the individual said, passing on an expression from conversations with political operatives there. (The Facebook employee does not name the political celebrations or the operatives included in the “social-civil war” or what problems were at the forefront. Extremist political celebrations in numerous countries celebrated the way the new algorithm rewarded their “justification strategies” for topics such as migration, the Facebook staff member wrote.

Studying the effect of the algorithm change ended up being a top priority for numerous economic experts, statisticians, and others who operate at Facebook studying the platform, the files show. A study posted internally in December 2019 said Facebook’s algorithms “are not neutral” but instead worth content that will get a response, any reaction, with the result that “outrage and misinformation are most likely to be viral.”

” We understand that many things that generate engagement on our platform leave users divided and depressed,” wrote the scientist, whose name was redacted.

Possible effects.
Some securities law experts said claims like Haugen’s wouldn’t necessarily trigger an SEC investigation.

” Do they actually go to the core of what the SEC is needed to police?” asked Charles Clark, a former assistant director of the SEC’s enforcement department, who said parts of the accusations didn’t appear to clearly violate securities law. “Some of what she’s complaining about is essential to Congress and is necessary to the world at big however isn’t truly connected to the required of the SEC.”

Clark added, nevertheless, that one of Haugen’s accusations– that Facebook is potentially inflating user counts and other metrics important to marketers– “is the kind of matter that the SEC has actually concentrated on for several years.”

Securities law professionals also don’t eliminate how the SEC may respond. Harvey Pitt, a former SEC chair, stated that he thinks Haugen’s claims are reputable and that the commission should examine whether Facebook met its legal obligations in making disclosures to investors.

Even that action is informing—- if Facebook has more documents that would inform a fuller story, why not release them? (During her Senate testimony Facebook’s Davis stated Facebook is “looking for methods to launch more research study.”).
The move appears to be a clear attempt to turn the page, but a fresh coat of paint will not repair the underlying issues described in the files– just Facebook, or whatever it might soon be called, can do that.
The spokesperson also said Facebook has “40,000 individuals working on the safety and security on our platform, consisting of 15,000 people who evaluate material in more than 70 languages working in more than 20 areas all across the world to support our community.”.
Facebook was accountable for a “social-civil war” in online political discourse in Poland, the person stated, passing on an expression from conversations with political operatives there.

There is so much more to come involving the Facebook papers, the whistleblower, and the public relations nightmare that now involves the integrity of the democracy of the United States of America. You can be certain that facebook is just too big to fail. They always find a way out of any trouble they seem to get into. I think we need to start looking at why that is.

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