Facebook Exec: We’re Not Like Big Tobacco Because So Many People Use Our Product

It’s been a difficult stretch for Fb. The social media behemoth, so accustomed to controversy and criticism, has struggled to deflect the scrutiny from the Wall Road Journal’s damning “Facebook Files” collection, which have portrayed the corporate as conscious of the issues with its platform, even because it downplays them in public and persists in its quest to insinuate its means into extra facets of its customers’ lives. A primetime 60 Minutes interview Sunday with Frances Haugen, a lead product manager-turned-whistleblower who served as the primary supply for the collection, was clearly solely going to up the ante. So earlier within the day, the corporate tried to get ahead of the criticism, with Nick Clegg, vice chairman of world affairs and communication, showing on CNN’s Dependable Sources to defend towards Haugen’s fees. It didn’t go nice.

Clegg allowed that “some” of the criticism of Fb has been honest and that the corporate hasn’t “bought the whole lot proper.” “We must be not defensive,” he stated. However he declined to acknowledge what the errors have been, and pushed again on questions on troubling findings within the firm’s personal inside analysis—together with the harmful impact its subsidiary, Instagram, seems to have on the psychological well being of teenage ladies. “Social media is what it says on the tin: it’s social,” Clegg stated. “It’s individuals continuously altering views, emotions, the ups and downs of their lives. In fact, you see…you understand, you see the great, the unhealthy, and the ugly of humanity present up on our platform as properly. Our job is to mitigate the unhealthy, scale back it, and amplify the great.”

In fact, that’s exactly what Haugen says the corporate has didn’t do—not solely as a result of it’s a frightening process, as the corporate’s struggles to comprise COVID misinformation have underscored, however as a result of it’s in Fb’s curiosity to maintain issues as they’re. “There have been conflicts of curiosity between what was good for the general public and what was good for Fb, and Fb, again and again, selected to optimize for its personal pursuits, like making more cash,” Haugen told Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes Sunday. “Fb has realized that if they modify the algorithm to be safer, individuals will spend much less time on the location, they’ll click on on much less advertisements, they’ll make much less cash.” (A Fb spokesperson denied Haugen’s characterization, saying in an announcement that to “counsel we encourage unhealthy content material and do nothing is simply not true.”)

“Nobody at Fb is malevolent,” Haugen added, “however the incentives are misaligned.”

That, in fact, speaks to the large challenge dealing with Mark Zuckerberg: Although he insists that his platform is a pressure for good that’s sometimes corrupted by the uglier components of humanity, it might the truth is be the case that the platform is corrupt by its very nature—and that speak of a safer Fb, as Clegg recommended the corporate was working to ship, is a bit just like the “safer cigarettes” tobacco corporations started advertising and marketing in response to well being considerations greater than half a century in the past. That comparability, between Massive Tech and Massive Tobacco, has been made quite a bit just lately, including by yours truly. However, requested by CNN’s Brian Stelter Sunday concerning the parallels, Clegg dismissed them out of hand as “deceptive.”

“Part of me seems like I’m interviewing the top of a tobacco firm proper now,” Stelter stated. “A part of me seems like I’m interviewing the top of an enormous on line casino that will get wealthy by tricking its clients and making them addicted.”

“I feel they’re profoundly false,” Clegg stated of the analogies. “I don’t assume it’s remotely like tobacco. I imply, social media apps, they’re apps. Folks obtain them on their telephones, and why do they try this? I imply, there needs to be a cause why a 3rd of the world’s inhabitants enjoys utilizing these apps.” 

His level about free will is well-taken; Zuckerberg clearly isn’t forcing anybody to scroll. However rejecting comparisons to an addictive product by declaring how many individuals around the globe use it hardly looks as if an ideal protection; the truth is, as NPR’s David Gura identified, the road truly made the parallels extra pronounced.

Fb has survived loads of scandals with even clumsier defenses than that. However the strain from this newest spherical isn’t going to relent anytime quickly. Haugen, who says she is making an attempt to “save” the corporate, not “destroy” it, is because of testify on Capitol Hill this week, in a listening to that can certainly renew requires federal oversight. “Fb’s actions clarify that we can not belief it to police itself,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal wrote Sunday. “We should take into account stronger oversight, efficient protections for kids, and instruments for fogeys, among the many wanted reforms.”

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https://www.vanityfair.com/information/2021/10/facebook-whistleblower-big-tobacco | Fb Exec: We’re Not Like Massive Tobacco As a result of So Many Folks Use Our Product


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