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Monday, 11 Oct 2021
For years now, we’ve heard many calls to regulate Facebook and push it to take action against spreading hate speech and misinformation.
And for years now, these calls have been mostly emotional. If you want to keep a big tech giant in check, you need more: facts, documents, and numbers.
Now we finally got them.
PIC OF THE WEEK
“Facebook can change, but is clearly not going to do so on its own. ... Congress can change the rules that Facebook plays by and stop the many harms it is causing.”
- Frances Haugen, Facebook whistleblower
Last week was definitely a one to remember for Mark Zuckerberg.
First, Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram all went down for about six hours on Monday. This global outage caused the company’s stock price to drop by 5%.
But that’s not the worst thing. The last couple of days also brought a spotlight on Frances Haugen. A 37-year-old former Facebook product manager revealed herself to be a whistleblower who fed the Wall Street Journal a series of internal company documents. Haugen testified before the US Senate Commerce subcommittee, painting a picture of Facebook that’s far from pretty. WHY IT'S INTERESTING
By now you’ve probably heard all about the Facebook outage (and seen all the memes), so let’s skip this part and quickly walk through Haugen’s complaints – which are much more interesting.
Ex-Facebook staffer revealed what many of us have suspected for a while now: that Facebook feeds off hate speech and misinformation. Some of the documents revealed by Haugen show that Facebook algorithms give more traffic to links with content that instigate negative comments.
“The mechanics of our platform are not neutral”, notes one document, acutely titled “What Is Collateral Damage?”. Another quotes a Facebook official stating: "we were willing to act only *after* things had spiraled into a dire state" in reference the company’s role in 2020 elections and January 6 Capitol riots.
Haugen called for regulating engagement-based ranking algorithms used by Facebook and Instagram.
She also revealed that Facebook has misled the public about the negative effects of its platforms on children and teens. One of Haugen’s complaints cites Facebook’s internal studies that prove Instagram’s influence on young girls, contributing to suicidal thoughts and eating disorders.
Pretty grim stuff. What’s changed is that now, thanks to Haugen’s testimony and documents she revealed, the ground for Facebook’s critique is finally more empirical rather than just emotional. And that’s pretty big.
All that’s left is waiting for Congress to do something about all of this – because Mark Zuckerberg surely won’t. After all, he’s had more than enough time and information to react. He simply chose to turn a blind eye.
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Organizing time and prioritizing is hard when you are a leader. Sometimes it ends up with working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. If you don’t declare a finish line, your body will. Carey Nieuwhof, a leader and leadership expert, explains how to take control of your time and how to lead a company without being always present.
Technologist Kayvon Tehranian explores why NFTs (digital assets that represent a certificate of ownership on the internet) are a technological breakthrough. They dissolve economic boundaries, putting power and economic control back into the hands of digital creators - and pushing forward the internet's next evolution.
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