Scrutiny of Facebook ramps up with flurry of new reports based on leaked documents


James Martin/CNET

The important highlight on Fb intensified this weekend, as a number of main media retailers printed new studies based mostly on the cache of inside firm paperwork leaked by former Fb worker Frances Haugen.

On Saturday, each The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal printed tales about misinformation and hate speech on Fb providers in India, the corporate’s largest market. And The Washington Post reported on concern amongst Fb staff in regards to the function the location performed within the unfold of misinformation that helped gasoline the lethal Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol.

The Publish’s report adopted tales on Friday by Bloomberg and NBC News that additionally centered on the unfold of misinformation on Fb within the US, and people studies got here on high of similar Friday stories within the Journal and the Times.

In its story in regards to the social community and India, the Occasions studies that in February 2019, a Fb researcher opened a brand new consumer account in Kerala, India, to get an concept of what web site customers there would see. The researcher adopted the suggestions generated by the social community’s algorithms to look at movies, try new pages and be a part of teams on Fb. “The take a look at consumer’s Information Feed has develop into a close to fixed barrage of polarizing nationalist content material, misinformation, violence and gore,” an inside Fb report mentioned later that month, based on the Occasions.

That echoes the findings of an analogous 2019 mission performed by a Fb researcher within the US, who arrange a take a look at account for “Carol Smith,” a fictitious “conservative mother” in North Carolina. In two days, NBC News reported, the social community was recommending that she be a part of teams devoted to the bogus QAnon conspiracy idea. In response to NBC, the experiment was outlined in an inside Fb report referred to as “Carol’s Journey to QAnon,” a doc additionally referenced by the Times, the Journal and the Post.

“The physique of analysis persistently discovered Fb pushed some customers into ‘rabbit holes,’ more and more slender echo chambers the place violent conspiracy theories thrived,” the NBC Information report reads. “Folks radicalized by means of these rabbit holes make up a small slice of whole customers, however at Fb’s scale, that may imply tens of millions of people.”

The flurry of latest studies based mostly on paperwork leaked by Haugen follows an earlier investigation in the Journal that relied on that very same cache of data. The brand new tales additionally come after Haugen’s testimony this month before the US Congress as lawmakers in america and elsewhere wrestle with whether or not to manage Fb and different Huge Tech corporations, and if that’s the case, how. Haugen is scheduled to testify earlier than the UK Parliament on Monday.

In a broad sense, the problem has to do with whether or not Fb could be relied on to responsibly steadiness enterprise motives with social considerations and put off the flood of harmful content material that has unfold on its varied social-networking platforms. The corporate’s algorithms drive consumer engagement, however they’ll additionally create issues on the subject of misinformation, hate speech and the like. The difficulty is difficult by the necessity to respect free speech whereas cracking down on problematic posts.

Critics say Fb has already dropped the ball too many occasions on the subject of policing its platforms and that the corporate places income forward of individuals. In her testimony before the US Congress, Haugen alleged that Fb’s merchandise “hurt youngsters, stoke division and weaken our democracy.”

Fb, however, has mentioned that inside paperwork are being misrepresented and {that a} “false picture” is being painted of the social-networking large. “I am certain a lot of you’ve gotten discovered the latest protection onerous to learn as a result of it simply does not replicate the corporate we all know,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in an e mail to staff earlier this month. “We care deeply about points like security, well-being and psychological well being.”

Fb did not instantly reply to a request for remark Saturday on the brand new batch of studies based mostly on paperwork leaked by Haugen. In a Friday blog post, the top of Fb’s integrity efforts defended the corporate’s actions to guard the 2020 US presidential elections and outlined the steps taken by the social community.

In regard to the Occasions’ report about India, a Fb spokesman advised the information outlet that the social community had put vital assets into expertise designed to root out hate speech in varied languages, together with Hindi and Bengali, and that this yr, Fb had halved the quantity of hate speech that customers see worldwide.

In regard to its “Carol’s Journey to QAnon” report, a Fb spokesperson advised NBC Information that the doc factors to the corporate’s efforts to resolve issues round harmful content material. “Whereas this was a examine of 1 hypothetical consumer, it’s a good instance of analysis the corporate does to enhance our methods and helped inform our resolution to take away QAnon from the platform,” the spokesperson advised the information outlet. | Scrutiny of Fb ramps up with flurry of latest studies based mostly on leaked paperwork


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