Home Social networking Facebook scrutiny intensifies with flurry of new reports based on leaked documents

Facebook scrutiny intensifies with flurry of new reports based on leaked documents


James Martin / CNET

Critical Facebook spotlight intensified over the weekend, as several mainstream media released new reports based on the cache of internal company documents leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen.

Saturday, New York Times and Wall Street Newspaper articles published on disinformation and hate speech on Facebook services in India, the company’s largest market. And Washington To post expresses concern of Facebook employees regarding the role of the site played in the spread of disinformation which helped fuel the murderous storming of the United States Capitol on January 6.

The Post’s report followed up on Friday’s stories by Bloomberg and CNB News that also focused on the spread of disinformation on Facebook in the United States, and these reports were on top of similar stories from Friday in the Newspaper and the Times.

In its article on the social network and India, The Times reports that in February 2019, a Facebook researcher opened a new user account in Kerala, India, to get an idea of ​​what users of the site would see there. . The researcher followed the recommendations generated by the algorithms of the social network to watch videos, consult new pages and join groups on Facebook. “The test user’s news feed has become an almost constant barrage of polarizing nationalist content, misinformation, violence and gore,” an internal Facebook report said later in the month, according to the Times.

This echoes the findings of a similar 2019 project conducted by a Facebook researcher in the United States, which created a test account for “Carol Smith,” a fictitious “conservative mom” in North Carolina. In two days, CNB News reported, the social network recommended that he join groups dedicated to the false QAnon conspiracy theory. According to NBC, the experience was described in an internal Facebook report titled “Carol’s Journey to QAnon,” a document also referenced by the Times, the Newspaper and the To post.

“The body of research has consistently shown that Facebook is pushing some users into ‘rabbit holes’, increasingly narrow echo chambers where violent conspiracy theories thrive,” the NBC News report reads. . “The people radicalized through these rabbit holes make up only a small slice of the total number of users, but across Facebook that can mean millions of individuals.”

Wave of new reports based on documents leaked by Haugen follows a previous survey in the Journal which was based on this same information cache. The new stories also come after Haugen testified this month before the United States Congress as lawmakers in the United States and elsewhere question whether to regulate Facebook and other Big Tech companies, and if yes, how. Haugen to testify in front of UK Parliament Monday.

Broadly speaking, the question is whether Facebook can be relied on to responsibly balance business motivations with social concerns and eliminate the flood of dangerous content that has spread across its various social media platforms. The company’s algorithms drive user engagement, but they can also create problems with misinformation, hate speech, etc. The problem is complicated by the need to respect freedom of expression while suppressing problematic messages.

Critics say Facebook has dropped the ball too many times when it comes to controlling its platforms and the company puts profits before people. In her testimony before the United States Congress, Haugen alleged than Facebook products “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy. “

Facebook, on the other hand, said internal documents are distorted and that a “false image“is painted by the social media giant.” I’m sure many of you have found the recent coverage difficult to read because it just doesn’t reflect the company we know, “wrote CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an email to employees earlier this month. “We care deeply about issues such as safety, welfare and Mental Health. “

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday on the new batch of reports based on documents leaked by Haugen. In a friday blog post, the head of Facebook’s integrity efforts defended the company’s actions to protect the 2020 U.S. presidential elections and described the actions taken by the social network.

Regarding the Times report on India, a Facebook spokesperson told the outlet that the social network has invested significant resources in technology designed to eliminate hate speech in various languages, including Hindi. and Bengali, and that this year Facebook had halved the amount of hate speech users see around the world.

Regarding its “Carol’s Journey to QAnon” report, a Facebook spokesperson told NBC News that the document highlights the company’s efforts to address issues with dangerous content. “Although this is a study on a hypothetical user, it is a perfect example of the research the company has done to improve our systems and helped inform our decision to remove QAnon from the platform. -form, “the spokesperson told the media outlet.

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