Facebook story hints at deep social media conundrum about ethics and profit

Another major controversy has erupted regarding social media platforms and it is none other than social media giant Facebook.

Following an interview a week ago on “60 Minutes”, the identity of the Facebook whistleblower, which has published thousands of pages of internal research and documents leading to a wide debate on contrary practices to the ethics of social media companies like Facebook, has been revealed to the world. like “Frances Haugen”.

After all, businesses are for-profit, but adhering to basic ethical business standards is both desirable and necessary, especially if you are running a social media business that not only conveys and displays feelings and emotions. audience, but is powerful enough to impact audience sensitivity. Recently, Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg told CNN’s Brian Stelter, “There isn’t as much perfection in social media as in any other area.” But even if this is true, little or almost no mercy can be shown to social media companies because the public stake is quite high in how they operate.

Frances Haugen, the 37-year-old former Facebook product manager and whistleblower, who has worked on civic integrity issues at the company, provided documents to U.S. government agencies as well as the Wall Street Journal on the measure in which social media giant consciously exploits the damage and damage caused by its apps and has not actually brought it into the public domain.

According to her and the documents she shared with various agencies show that “Facebook knows that its platforms are used to spread hatred, violence and disinformation, and that the company has tried to hide this evidence.” Haugen had actually started working at Facebook in 2019 and previously worked for tech giants like Google and Pinterest. What is mainly revealed in his interview with “60 Minutes” is the fundamental contradiction between the public good and how social media seems to have been designed and what it really is.

She said: “What I’ve seen time and time again on Facebook is that there was a conflict of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook chose again and again to optimize for its own interests, such as making more money. “

Subsequently, “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelly reportedly quoted an internal Facebook (FB) document as follows: “We have evidence from various sources that hate speech, divisive political speech and misinformation about Facebook and the family of apps affect companies around the world. “

According to these reports and Haugen’s claims, there is no evidence to suggest that Facebook has actually worked on the information it has but has instead kept quiet to further its own best interests.

However, according to reports filed by Haugen, at least eight complaints a month ago to the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that the company had hidden its research into the loopholes from investors and the public. She also reportedly shared the documents with the Wall Street Journal, which show that “Facebook was aware of the problems with its apps, including the negative effects of misinformation and the damage done, especially to young girls, by Instagram. Haugen said most often in the interview that if “no one on Facebook is malicious… the incentives are misaligned”.

She added, “Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People like to engage with things that elicit an emotional response, and the more anger they are exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.

“Claims made and documents disclosed by Haugen suggest that Facebook’s policy of ‘safeguards’ against hate speech, incitement to violence, content harmful to the mental well-being of young people is only for the namesake .

And that the company also appears to be aware of the role its apps play in inciting ethnic violence in many parts of the world and that the way its product named Instagram increases notions of body shame and teenage depression.

According to disclosures made by Haugen, the AI-based algorithms that Facebook uses are designed to keep people on the site / app for as long as possible so that the time and data collected is monetized. It especially feels bad and fuels disgust when the company allegedly indulged in a business of allowing hate and negative emotions and feelings on their platform and subsequently monetizing the increased momentum on their site / app. .

It’s dangerous in the long run; such an internal policy of any social media company can have a dangerous impact on various strands of social life, be it political or cultural practices or relations, as it propels sexual violence, hatred, misogyny , depression and suicidal tendencies, etc., to the extent of creating total social disharmony.

There is therefore a need for various national governments to put in place strict regulations on social media to control these abusive practices, although it is necessary to ensure that these platforms remain genuinely democratic and free.

(The author is a lawyer and public policy expert and a Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Law and Media Studies at the School of Mass Communication, KIIT Deemed University. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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