Series from Wall Street Journal likens Facebook harms to Big Tobacco

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The Journal relied on inside firm paperwork it obtained to present Facebook (FB) is aware of, “in acute detail,” in regards to the issues with its platforms. The assorted harms to customers are well-documented. But, within the phrases of the Journal, Facebook “hasn’t fixed” the failings.

So: Social platforms are addictive and infrequently dangerous. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, advised the Journal “Facebook seems to be taking a page from the textbook of Big Tobacco — targeting teens with potentially dangerous products while masking the science in public.”

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican, tweeted “Big Tech has become the new Big Tobacco. Facebook is lying about how their product harms teens.”

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The series issues as a result of it comes with proof.”Time and again, the documents show, Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects,” the Journal says. “Time and again, despite congressional hearings, its own pledges and numerous media exposés, the company didn’t fix them. The documents offer perhaps the clearest picture thus far of how broadly Facebook’s problems are known inside the company, up to the chief executive himself.”
Regarding the corporate’s CEO, Friday’s story had his identify within the headline: “How Facebook Hobbled Mark Zuckerberg’s Bid to Get America Vaccinated.”
Here’s the place to get caught up on all the series.

This was a really huge week for the Journal. Is there extra reporting work to do? Definitely. My sense is the series has given the newsroom a jolt of inspiration, and this might not be the Journal’s final phrase on the Facebook Files.

Facebook’s new response

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The firm’s response to the five-part series was measured throughout the workweek. Facebook might have deployed spokespeople and surrogates onto TV reveals, for instance, but it surely didn’t. I seen Joe Scarborough on MSNBC saying “Facebook reminds me of big tobacco,” as a result of “they know their product is damaging to people.”

There was no rebuttal from the corporate on his present.

But on Saturday, Facebook vp of worldwide affairs Nick Clegg issued a seven-paragraph weblog put up, objecting to some elements of the Journal series.
“At the heart of this series is an allegation that is just plain false: that Facebook conducts research and then systematically and willfully ignores it if the findings are inconvenient for the company. This impugns the motives and hard work of thousands of researchers, policy experts and engineers at Facebook who strive to improve the quality of our products, and to understand their wider (positive and negative) impact,” Clegg mentioned.

Clegg deplored what he known as the “impugning” of Facebook’s motives. Perhaps responding to some observers’ issues the corporate will cease doing inside analysis since a few of it was leaked to the Journal, Clegg mentioned, “We will continue to invest in research into these serious and complex issues. We will continue to ask ourselves the hard questions. And we will continue to improve our products and services as a result.”

He additionally appeared to tackle the comparisons of Facebook to Big Tobacco. “The truth is that research into the impact social media has on people is still relatively nascent and evolving, and social media itself is changing rapidly,” he mentioned.

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FB disinformation does not occur in a vacuum

Journal reporter Jeff Horwitz, who has earned many plaudits this week, tweeted Friday “some Facebook folks have told me we should pay more attention to how the interplay between social media and cable TV news affected the public discussion of Covid vaccines, including on the company’s platforms.” He agreed with that evaluation, he mentioned.
Former Twitter and Facebook government Nu Wexler mentioned he additionally concurred: “If we’re measuring reach/engagement of health misinfo on FB, we need a way to compare it to Hannity’s nightly audience or the impact of a governor/senator saying the same things IRL.”

Further studying and listening

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— “There’s a lot to unpack” from the “Facebook Files,” CNN’s Allison Morrow writes. “But one thing that stands out is just how blatantly Facebook’s problems are documented, using the kind of simple, observational prose not often found in internal communications at multinational corporations.”
— Washington Post columnist Will Oremus says he sees a sample rising: “Facebook keeps researching its own harms — and burying the findings.”
Friday’s “Files” story describes a gathering of Facebook management in and round its Menlo Park HQ early this month at which “the tone from some participants was, ‘We created the machine and we can’t control the machine,’ one of the people said.”
— David Kirkpatrick, who wrote a “generally positive” (his phrases) guide about FB a decade in the past, says “the Journal series may bespeak a major shift, even for those who are jaded and expect little other than evasion and apathy from this shockingly-powerful company. The articles suggest it may start to be seen widely as an outlaw enterprise.”
— The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson says the Journal series underscores that social media is “attention alcohol:” Like booze, he says, “social media seems to offer an intoxicating cocktail of dopamine, disorientation, and, for some, dependency.”
— On Monday the Journal will maintain a reside Q&A with a number of reporters in regards to the “Facebook Files” findings. There can also be a companion podcast series on Spotify.
A model of this text first appeared within the “Reliable Sources” publication. You can join free proper right here.

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