Ever since Russian agents and other opportunists misused their platform to rig the 2016 US presidential election, Facebook has repeatedly insisted that it learned its lesson and is no longer a conduit for misinformation, voter suppression, and electoral disruption.
But it’s been a long and faltering journey for the social network. Critical outsiders as well as some Facebook employeesLet’s say the company’s efforts to revise its rules and tighten its security safeguards are totally inadequate for the job, despite having spent billions on the project. They indicate the company̵
“Am I concerned about the choice? I’m scared, ”said Roger McNamee, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and early Facebook investor who has become a vocal critic. “At the current size of the company, this is a clear and present threat to democracy and national security.”
The company’s rhetoric has certainly been updated. CEO Mark Zuckerberg now casually points to possible outcomes unimaginable in 2016 – including potential civil unrest and potentially controversial elections that Facebook could easily make worse – as challenges the platform is now facing.
“This election will not go as usual,” wrote Zuckerberg In a September Facebook post, he outlined Facebook’s efforts to encourage voting and remove misinformation from its service. “We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy.”
Yet for years, Facebook managers seem surprised when their platform, which was created to connect the world, has been used for malicious purposes. Zuckerberg offered multiple apologies over the years like no one could have predicted that people would use Facebook to live stream murders and suicides, Incitement to ethnic cleansing, promote false cancer cures or try to steal options.
While other platforms like Twitter and YouTube also struggled to fix misinformation and hateful content, Facebook stands out for its reach and size and, compared to many other platforms, for its slower response to the challenges identified in 2016.
Immediately after President Donald Trump was elected, Zuckerberg offered a remarkably deaf-mute joke on the idea that “false news” posted on Facebook might have influenced the 2016 elections, it was called “a pretty crazy idea”. A week later he went back the comment.
Since then, Facebook has issued a stream of Mea Culpas for its slowness to crack down on the threat of the 2016 election and promised to do better. “I don’t think they can listen any better,” said David Kirkpatrick, author of a book about the rise of Facebook. “What has changed is that more people have told them they have to do something.”
The company has hired outside fact checkers, added restrictions – then more restrictions – on political advertising, and removed thousands of accounts, pages, and groups that were found to be “coordinated phony behavior.” This is Facebook’s term for fake accounts and groups that maliciously target political discourse in countries from Albania to Zimbabwe.
Warnings have also been added to posts containing misinformation about votes, and steps have been taken occasionally to limit the circulation of misleading posts. The platform has also been banned in recent weeks Posts denying the Holocaust and joining Twitter to limit spread an unconfirmed political story about Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, published by the conservative New York Post.
All of this undoubtedly puts Facebook in a better position than it did four years ago. But that doesn’t mean it’s fully prepared. Despite stricter rules that ban them, violent militias still use the platform to organize. Recently, this involved a foiled kidnapping plot the governor of Michigan.
In the four years since the last election, Facebook’s revenue and user growth have grown. This year, according to FactSet, analysts expect a profit of 23.2 billion US dollars on sales of 80 billion US dollars. There are currently 2.7 billion users worldwide, compared to 1.8 billion at this point in time in 2016.
Facebook is facing a number of government investigations into its size and market power, including an antitrust investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission. A previous FTC investigation fined Facebook a hefty $ 5 billion but required no additional changes.
“Your # 1 priority is growth, not harm reduction,” said Kirkpatrick. “And that probably won’t change.”
Part of the problem: Zuckerberg keeps the company under control, but doesn’t take criticism of him or his creation seriously, accuses social media expert Jennifer Grygiel, a communications professor at Syracuse University. But the public knows what’s going on, she said. “You are seeing COVID misinformation. You see Donald Trump taking advantage of it. You can’t see it. “
Facebook insists it takes the misinformation challenge seriously – especially in the election.
“The elections have changed since 2016, as has Facebook,” the company said in a statement Determination of the election and voting policy. “We have more people and better technology to protect our platforms, and we have improved our content policies and enforcement.”
Grygiel says such comments are natural. “This company uses PR instead of an ethical business model,” she said.
Kirkpatrick notes that board members and executives who resisted the CEO – a group that includes the founders of Instagram and WhatsApp – have left the company.
“He’s so sure that Facebook has an overall positive impact on the world,” and that critics don’t give him enough credit for it, Kirkpatrick said of Zuckerberg. As a result, the Facebook CEO is not inclined to receive constructive feedback. “He doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want. He’s not mistaken, ”said Kirkpatrick.
The federal government has so far left Facebook on its own, a lack of accountability that has only empowered the company, according to U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat who grilled Zuckerberg during a Capitol Hill hearing in July.
Warning signs are of limited value if the platform’s underlying algorithms are designed to impart polarizing material to users, she said. “I think Facebook did some things that indicate that it understands its role. But in my opinion it was far too little, too late. “