Is anyone really surprised by the recent revelations from an insider that Facebook knew its platforms were used to spread divisiveness and misinformation, and that their algorithms optimized that type of content because it gets reactions?
Whistleblower Frances Haugen is publicly taking Facebook to task for what she says is the company’s “conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook over and over again chose to optimize its own interests, like making money.” Haugen also alleges that Facebook lied to regulators, shareholders and the public.
It’s no big mystery that content that evokes negative emotions gets more clicks than those that don’t. Even here at the Enid News & Eagle, we analyze each week which stories from our website and Facebook postings get the most interaction. By far, stories that are what would be considered “bad news” or controversial get more clicks than those that aren’t. It’s the same human nature concept that causes drivers to slow down at the scene of a wreck in order to take a look.
Where Facebook and other social media are concerned, the addiction factor and constant interaction and Facebook’s alleged attempts to feed into that addiction factor, have the potential to manipulate that information to cause extreme societal problems.
Haugen’s allegations have been met with a great deal of interest due her credibility. She has thousands of internal documents and data from Facebook’s own researchers that support claims about the platform’s harms. Attempts to discredit her or cast her allegations as “mischaracterizations” are being met with a great deal of skepticism and disdain from members of Congress.
So, now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, what can Facebook do to redeem itself?
It has been suggested by other Facebook insiders that a first step would be Facebook giving its own researchers more power to stand up to executives regarding their research findings, and the company being more transparent about that research.
Another suggestion is that those of the top of Facebook, namely Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, should resign.
“Not just a new leadership, but a whole new board and new leadership that is accountable to the public,” former Facebook employee Yael Eisenstat told Time Magazine.
Both of these options would be a good first step in the right direction.