Sunday, January 2, 2022

Facebook's Pushback

I just learned of this, but the "Facebook Files" are available for download, here.

It's actually a full-blown investigation and a massive amount of information, but nevertheless vital for understand what's going on in social media today, and especially Zuckerberg's very threat to civil order and the maintenance of society.

More, from last week, at WSJ, "Facebook’s Pushback: Stem the Leaks, Spin the Politics, Don’t Say Sorry":

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg drove response to disclosures about company’s influence; sending deputies to testify in Congress.

he day after former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen went public in October, the company’s team in Washington started working the phones.

To lawmakers and advocacy groups on the right, according to people familiar with the conversations, their message was that Ms. Haugen was trying to help Democrats. Within hours, several conservative news outlets published stories alleging Ms. Haugen was a Democratic activist.

Later, Facebook lobbyists warned Democratic staffers that Republicans were focused on the company’s decision to ban expressions of support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who killed two people during unrest in Kenosha, Wis., and who was later acquitted of homicide and other charges.

The company’s goal, according to Republicans and Democrats familiar with the company’s outreach, was to muddy the waters, divide lawmakers along partisan lines and forestall a cross-party alliance that was emerging to enact tougher rules on social-media companies in general and Facebook in particular.

Ms. Haugen’s revelations, and the thousands of internal documents she took with her when she quit Facebook earlier this year, showed the company’s influence on political discourse, teen mental health and other matters. The resulting backlash was emerging as the company’s biggest crisis in years. Pushing politics to the forefront was one part of Facebook’s response, in keeping with a sharp-elbowed approach driven by Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company conducted reputational reviews of new products. To deter further leaks, internal access settings for research discussions on topics, including mental health and radicalization, were restricted to those directly involved in the work, according to employees and others familiar with the restrictions. Company researchers said they have been asked to submit work on sensitive topics for review by company lawyers, who have sometimes asked for examples of problems to be excised from internal posts.

Mr. Zuckerberg later changed the company’s name to Meta Platforms Inc., to emphasize what he called a new focus on building the metaverse, an immersive digital world he has described as the next phase of the internet. He has been conducting meetings in virtual reality, with digital avatars standing in for the executives, according to people familiar with the meetings. He has encouraged other employees to do the same.

The implication is that Facebook should look toward the future and not get bogged down in the messy past.

Former executives said Mr. Zuckerberg has told employees not to apologize. In contrast to previous controversies, in which the CEO publicly claimed ownership of the company’s mistakes and typically addressed them head-on, Mr. Zuckerberg has spoken little publicly about Ms. Haugen’s disclosures and sent deputies to testify before Congress.

“When our work is being mischaracterized, we’re not going to apologize,” said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone. “We’re going to defend our record.”

Facebook has acknowledged changes to its research operations but pledged to continue the work to understand the impact of its platforms. The company has also said that it invests billions of dollars to protect the safety of its users.

Starting in September, The Wall Street Journal published a series of articles, called The Facebook Files, which identified harm caused by the social-media giant’s platforms, as identified by its own researchers, and its challenges in addressing them. Based in part on Ms. Haugen’s documents, the articles detailed such matters as how Facebook’s algorithm fosters discord and how its researchers concluded that its platforms, especially Instagram, could negatively affect teen mental health.

Ms. Haugen subsequently made the documents available to other media outlets, which published their own articles.

Since then, there have been four U.S. congressional hearings related to issues raised in the articles; a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general launched an investigation into Instagram’s effects on children; and more than a half-dozen prominent Meta executives and other senior employees have departed or announced their departures.

“The documents speak for themselves,” said Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, the leading Republican on the Senate antitrust subcommittee and a member of the consumer protection subcommittee. He said he is pursuing legislation that would promote more market competition in social media and add more protections for children online.

Facebook has responded to criticism by citing billions of dollars of investments it has made in online safety, as well as partnerships with outside entities and experts. During a Sept. 30 hearing, Antigone Davis, Meta’s global head of safety, pointed to the company’s work with its safety advisory board, created more than a decade ago, which includes internet-safety experts from around the world.

Facebook has previously said it conducted its own research to identify issues and devise ways to address them...

Still more.

PREVIOUSLY: "Frances Haugen's Testimony (VIDEO)."