People Or Profit? Facebook Papers Show A Deep Internal Conflict – Whistleblowers, PR Nightmares, and Papers Oh My!

People Or Profit? Facebook Papers Show A Deep Internal Conflict

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Facebook is no stranger to the fight of public relations concerns, whistleblowers, and even the democratic process. As of late it has been put under much different analysis. One that has actually clarified what lots of have actually believed for numerous years. Facebook has an agenda other than to “offer individuals the power to build community and bring the world better together.”

It now appears like along with ditching the “It’s complimentary and constantly will be” motto from its homepage, it has actually also become clear that “Facebook misinformed financiers and the general public about its function perpetuating misinformation and violent extremism connecting to the 2020 election and January sixth insurrection.”– Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen

Leaked documents had actually begun appearing in the Wall Street Journal and sensational observations started to catch the eyes of legislators all over the world.

The “Facebook Documents” however, and the lots of stories undoubtedly still to come from their intro into the public realm, touch on much deeper concerns about Facebook as a whole. Facebook’s method to combating hate speech and false information, handling worldwide growth, safeguarding younger users on its platform, and even its capability to precisely measure the size of its massive audience are all now put on serious blast.

As we view this huge company evade and weave away such claims, something stays really obvious. Facebook has actually become too big to fail! The question we need to ask is … are they in fact capable of managing the “real-world” damages from its staggeringly large platforms?

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

People Or Profit? Facebook Papers Show A Deep Internal Conflict – Name Change Won’t Help

By BARBARA ORTUTAY AP Technology Writer Facebook the company is losing control of Facebook the product — not to mention the last shreds of its carefully crafted, decade-old image as a benevolent company just wanting to connect the world.

Thousands of pages of internal documents provided to Congress by a former employee depict an internally conflicted company where data on the harms it causes is abundant, but solutions, much less the will to act on them, are halting at best.

The crisis exposed by the documents shows how Facebook, despite its regularly avowed good intentions, appears to have slow-walked or sidelined efforts to address real harms the social network has magnified and sometimes created. They reveal numerous instances where researchers and rank-and-file workers uncovered deep-seated problems that the company then overlooked or ignored.

Final responsibility for this state of affairs rests with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who holds what one former employee described as dictatorial power over a corporation that collects data on and provides free services to roughly 3 billion people around the world.

“Ultimately, it rests with Mark and whatever his prerogative is — and it has always been to grow, to increase his power and his reach,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University communications professor who’s followed Facebook closely for years.

Zuckerberg has an ironclad hold on Facebook Inc. He holds the majority of the company’s voting shares, controls its board of directors and has increasingly surrounded himself with executives who don’t appear to question his vision.

But he has so far been unable to address stagnating user growth and shrinking engagement for Facebook the product in key areas such as the United States and Europe. Worse, the company is losing the attention of its most important demographic — teenagers and young people — with no clear path to gaining it back, its own documents reveal.

Young adults engage with Facebook far less than their older cohorts, seeing it as an “outdated network” with “irrelevant content” that provides limited value for them, according to a November 2020 internal document. It is “boring, misleading and negative,” they say.

In other words, the young see Facebook as a place for old people.

Facebook’s user base has been aging faster, on average, than the general population, the company’s researchers found. Unless Facebook can find a way to turn this around, its population will continue to get older and young people will find even fewer reasons to sign on, threatening the monthly user figures that are essential to selling ads. Facebook says its products are still widely used by teens, although it acknowledges there’s “tough competition” from TikTok, Snapchat and the like.

So it can continue to expand its reach and power, Facebook has pushed for high user growth outside the U.S. and Western Europe. But as it expanded into less familiar parts of the world, the company systematically failed to address or even anticipate the unintended consequences of signing up millions of new users without also providing staff and systems to identify and limit the spread of hate speech, misinformation and calls to violence.

In Afghanistan and Myanmar, for instance, extremist language has flourished due to a systemic lack of language support for content moderation, whether that’s human or artificial intelligence-driven. In Myanmar, it has been linked to atrocities committed against the country’s minority Rohingya Muslim population.

But Facebook appears unable to acknowledge, much less prevent, the real-world collateral damage accompanying its untrammeled growth. Those harms include shadowy algorithms that radicalize users, pervasive misinformation and extremism, facilitation of human trafficking, teen suicide and more.

Internal efforts to mitigate such problems have often been pushed aside or abandoned when solutions conflict with growth — and, by extension, profit.

Backed into a corner with hard evidence from leaked documents, the company has doubled down defending its choices rather than try to fix its problems.

“We do not and we have not prioritized engagement over safety,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, told The Associated Press this month following congressional testimony from whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen. In the days since Haugen’s testimony and appearance on “60 Minutes” — during which Zuckerberg posted a video of himself sailing with his wife Priscilla Chan — Facebook has tried to discredit Haugen by repeatedly pointing out that she didn’t directly work on many of the problems she revealed.

“A curated selection out of millions of documents at Facebook can in no way be used to draw fair conclusions about us,” Facebook tweeted from its public relations “newsroom” account earlier this month, following the company’s discovery that a group of news organizations was working on stories about the internal documents.

“At the heart of these stories is a premise which is false. Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,” Facebook said in a prepared statement Friday. “The truth is we’ve invested $13 billion and have over 40,000 people to do one job: keep people safe on Facebook.”

Statements like these are the latest sign that Facebook has gotten into what Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist, described as a “siege mentality” at the company. Zhang last year accused the social network of ignoring fake accounts used to undermine foreign elections. With more whistleblowers — notably Haugen — coming forward, it’s only gotten worse.

“Facebook has been going through a bit of an authoritarian narrative spiral, where it becomes less responsive to employee criticism, to internal dissent and in some cases cracks down upon it,” said Zhang, who was fired from Facebook in the fall of 2020. “And this leads to more internal dissent.”

“I have seen many colleagues that are extremely frustrated and angry, while at the same time, feeling powerless and (disheartened) about the current situation,” one employee, whose name was redacted, wrote on an internal message board after Facebook decided last year to leave up incendiary posts by former President Donald Trump that suggested Minneapolis protesters could be shot. “My view is, if you want to fix Facebook, do it within.”

This story is based in part on disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Haugen’s legal counsel. The redacted versions received by Congress were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Associated Press.

They detail painstakingly collected data on problems as wide-ranging as the trafficking of domestic workers in the Middle East, an over-correction in crackdowns on Arabic content that critics say muzzles free speech while hate speech and abuse flourish, and rampant anti-vaccine misinformation that researchers found could have been easily tamped down with subtle changes in how users view posts on their feed.

The company insists it “does not conduct research and then systematically and willfully ignore it if the findings are inconvenient for the company.” This claim, Facebook said in a statement, can “only be made by cherry-picking selective quotes from individual pieces of leaked material in a way that presents complex and nuanced issues as if there is only ever one right answer.”

Haugen, who testified before the Senate this month that Facebook’s products “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” said the company should declare “moral bankruptcy” if it is to move forward from all this.

At this stage, that seems unlikely. There is a deep-seated conflict between profit and people within Facebook — and the company does not appear to be ready to give up on its narrative that it’s good for the world even as it regularly makes decisions intended to maximize growth.

“Facebook did regular surveys of its employees — what percentage of employees believe that Facebook is making the world a better place,” Zhang recalled.

“It was around 70 percent when I joined. It was around 50 percent when I left,” said Zhang, who was at the company for more than two years before she was fired in the fall of 2020.

Facebook has not said where the number stands today.

Associated Press

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Facebook tries to turn the page

Facebook, for its part, has actually consistently attempted to reject Haugen and stated her statement and reports on the files mischaracterize its actions and efforts.
“At the heart of these stories is a premise which is incorrect,” a Facebook spokesperson stated in a declaration to CNN. “Yes, we’re a company and we make a profit, but the concept that we do so at the expenditure of people’s safety or wellness misunderstands where our own industrial interests lie.”
In a tweet thread last week, the business’s Vice President of Communications, John Pinette, called the Facebook Papers a “curated choice out of millions of documents at Facebook” which “can in no chance be utilized to draw reasonable conclusions about us.” Even that reaction is telling—- if Facebook has more documents that would inform a fuller story, why not release them? (Throughout her Senate testimony Facebook’s Davis stated Facebook is “looking for methods to release more research study.”).
A chest of internal Facebook documents dripped by whistleblower Frances Haugen has kicked off a wave of coverage of the business, starting with the Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” and now as a consortium of other news companies roll out stories on the same documents.
A trove of internal Facebook documents dripped by whistleblower Frances Haugen has started a wave of protection of the business, starting with the Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” and now as a consortium of other news companies roll out stories on the exact same documents.
Instead, Facebook is now reportedly preparing to rebrand itself under a new name as early as today, as the wave of important protection continues. (Facebook formerly declined to discuss this report.) The move seems a clear attempt to turn the page, however a fresh coat of paint won’t fix the underlying concerns laid out in the files– only Facebook, or whatever it may soon 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, called Cartél Jalisco Nueva Generación. The cartel was said to be using the platform to post violent material and hire new members utilizing the acronym “CJNG,” even though it had actually been designated internally as one of the “Unsafe Individuals and Organizations” whose content need to be eliminated. Facebook informed the Journal at the time that it was buying synthetic intelligence to boost its enforcement against such groups.
Regardless of the Journal’s report last month, CNN recently identified disturbing material connected to the group on Instagram, consisting of pictures of guns, and picture and video posts in which people appear to have actually been shot or beheaded. After CNN asked Facebook about the posts, a representative confirmed that numerous videos CNN flagged were eliminated for violating the business’s policies, and at least one post had a caution added.

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

Haugen has actually suggested Facebook’s failure to fix such issues remains in part since it prioritizes earnings over social great, and, sometimes, since the company does not have the capability to put out its lots of fires at once.
” Facebook is extremely very finely staffed … and this is because there are a great deal of technologists that take a look at what Facebook has done and their objection to accept obligation, and people just aren’t happy to work there,” Haugen said in a rundown with the “Facebook Papers” consortium last week. “So they need to make very, really, really deliberate options on what does or does not get achieved.”.
Facebook has invested a total of $13 billion because 2016 to enhance the security of its platforms, according to the business representative. (By comparison, the company’s annual earnings topped $85 billion last year and its profit hit $29 billion.) The representative likewise stated Facebook has “40,000 people dealing with the safety and security on our platform, including 15,000 individuals who examine material in more than 70 languages operating in more than 20 locations all across the world to support our neighborhood.”.
” We have actually also removed over 150 networks seeking to control public dispute considering that 2017, and they have come from over 50 countries, with the majority coming from or focused outside of the US,” the spokesperson stated. “Our performance history reveals that we crackdown on abuse outside the United States with the exact same strength that we apply in the US.”.
Still, the files recommend that the company has a lot more work to do to eliminate all of the numerous harms described in the documents and to address the unintended effects of Facebook’s extraordinary reach and integration into our lives.

How Facebook Is Trying To Retain Users.

Facebook executives recently confessed that younger teens are deserting the site for newer mobile messaging and social sharing apps, while a study from previously this year discovered that the social network lost 11 million active users overall in the U.S. and Britain. Here are some options Facebook is considering to keep its existing users and win back those who have actually defected:.

Zuckerberg’s public claims typically contravene internal research study.

Haugen recommendations Zuckerberg’s public statements a minimum of 20 times in her SEC problems, asserting that the CEO’s unique degree of control over Facebook forces him to bear supreme obligation for a list of societal damages triggered by the company’s ruthless pursuit of growth.

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

Zuckerberg testified last year before Congress that the business gets rid of 94 percent of the hate speech it finds. However in internal documents, researchers estimated that the business was eliminating 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, stating they are “based upon picked files that are mischaracterized and devoid of any context.”.

It isn’t clear whether the SEC is examining Facebook or whether it would see adequate product in the disclosures to warrant an examination of whether the business might have misinformed financiers. The SEC declined to comment. The commission isn’t needed to take any action on whistleblowers’ tips, and when it conducts examinations, it does so on a confidential basis as a matter of policy. In an annual report, the SEC stated it got over 6,900 whistleblower tips in the ending September 2020.

A number of securities law experts stated it would not be simple to show misdeed.

” Regulators like clean cases and they like where somebody is on tape doing something incorrect,” said Joshua Mitts, a securities law teacher at Columbia University. Haugen’s allegations are hardly a “tidy case,” he stated.

Facebook pushback.

Facebook’s public relations chief recently said Haugen’s disclosures were an “managed ‘gotcha’ campaign” assisted by her public relations advisors.

” A curated selection out of countless documents at Facebook can in no method be utilized to draw fair conclusions about us,” Facebook’s vice president for communications, John Pinette, said in a tweet ahead of the release of the Haugen disclosures.

” Internally, we share work in progress and debate alternatives. Not every idea stands up to the analysis we must apply to choices impacting a lot of people,” Pinette said.

Haugen has actually gotten help from public relations and experienced attorneys consultants. A company run by Costs Burton, an Obama White Home representative, is managing media demands, and Haugen is represented by attorneys from Whistleblower Help, a not-for-profit organization.

The disclosures made by Haugen’s lawyers illustrate a roiling internal argument at Facebook at the very same time it has actually been in a severe external spotlight, with congressional hearings, personal privacy investigations, antitrust suits, and other scrutiny by outsiders.

And the upheaval may prove a larger danger than any external examination because Facebook relies for its success on being able to attract and keep some of the world’s top software application engineers and technologists. If the business can’t attract, retain and encourage gifted workers, it could lose its capability to compete successfully, it stated in its latest yearly report in January.

A Facebook employee wrote on an internal message board on Jan. 6: “We have actually been dealing with questions we can’t respond to from our good friends, household, and market associates for many years. Hiring, in specific, has gotten harder throughout the years as Facebook’s ethical credibility continues to weaken (all while our technical credibility continues to increase).”.

Facebook stated in a statement that 83 percent of its employees state they ‘d recommend it as a great place to work and that it has hired more workers this year than in any previous year.

Causing ‘social-civil war’.
Another set of Haugen’s documents explains how the computer algorithm behind Facebook’s news feed– the formula that determines what posts people see and in which order– led to unexpected repercussions over years and months.

Facebook announced that it would rewrite the algorithm in January 2018, saying it would emphasize “meaningful social interactions” and offer more weight to comments, reactions, and re-shares among pals, rather than posts from businesses and brands.

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

” Political parties across Europe declare that Facebook’s algorithm change in 2018 [concerning social interactions] has changed the nature of politics. For the worse,” a worker wrote in an April 2019 internal post. Facebook was accountable for a “social-civil war” in online political discourse in Poland, the individual said, handing down an expression from conversations with political operatives there. (The Facebook worker does not name the political parties or the operatives associated with the “social-civil war” or what concerns were at the leading edge. A Polish election later on that year concentrated on the expansion of the welfare state, European combination, and gay rights, Reuters reported.) Extremist political parties in different countries celebrated the method the brand-new algorithm rewarded their “justification strategies” for subjects such as migration, the Facebook employee wrote.

Studying the effect of the algorithm modification became a top priority for lots of economic experts, statisticians, and others who work at Facebook studying the platform, the documents show. A research study posted internally in December 2019 stated 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 more likely to be viral.”

” We understand that lots of things that generate engagement on our platform leave users divided and depressed,” composed the researcher, whose name was redacted.

Potential repercussions.
Some securities law professionals stated accusations like Haugen’s wouldn’t necessarily set off an SEC investigation.

” Do they truly go to the core of what the SEC is required to police?” asked Charles Clark, a former assistant director of the SEC’s enforcement department, who stated parts of the allegations didn’t appear to plainly violate securities law. “Some of what she’s grumbling about is crucial to Congress and is necessary to the world at big but isn’t truly connected to the required of the SEC.”

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

Securities law specialists likewise don’t dismiss how the SEC might react. Harvey Pitt, a previous SEC chair, stated that he believes Haugen’s accusations are credible and that the commission must examine whether Facebook fulfilled its legal obligations in making disclosures to investors.

Even that action is telling—- if Facebook has more documents that would tell a fuller story, why not release them? (During her Senate testament Facebook’s Davis stated Facebook is “looking for methods to release more research.”).
The move appears to be a clear attempt to turn the page, however a fresh coat of paint won’t repair the underlying problems described in the documents– just Facebook, or whatever it might soon be called, can do that.
The representative likewise stated Facebook has “40,000 people working on the security and security on our platform, including 15,000 individuals who examine content in more than 70 languages working in more than 20 places all throughout 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 a phrase from discussions with political operatives there.

facebook papers

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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