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Facebook Sets Out To Build The Multiverse...and Hopes To Hide There

I spoke with Robyn Bresnahan on CBC Ottawa Morning on 25-Oct-2021 about the challenges that Facebook is currently up against and the rumours about major announcements coming later this week…which I cover in this post as well.

The Facebook Papers

Whistle blower Frances Haugen provided the Facebook Papers to a number of media outlets and the steady march of revelations have provided an unprecedented look at the internal workings of Facebook.

Casey Newton raised an excellent point in his newsletter, Platformer. As-is, the documents don’t have the necessary cultural context to interpret them as hard fact. Who hasn’t been in a meeting or water cooler discussion where someone has raised an issue with a strong perspective that doesn’t align with the official company position?

That said, the Facebook Papers do show that teams were investigating serious issues and gathering data that should have been used by senior leadership to inform their decisions. Whether or not that was the case is up for debate.

The excellent “An Ugly Truth” by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang helped frame some of the internal reactions to the very real impacts of the social network on our societies. If you interpret the Facebook Papers through that lens, they add more weight to the idea that there was willful ignorance of the impact or at least an unwillingness to dig into the full impact of internal decisions.

Regardless of the how, the impact needs to be dealt with and that’s one area that hasn’t had any realistic suggestions or proposals. Every one is up in arms but we haven’t seen a productive way forward materialize yet.

What’s hard to reconciles is Facebook’s own facts about how important safety is to the company.

They’ve spent $13B over six years on safety and have ~40,000 contractors tackling the problem…almost entirely focused on English content with a US-focus.

That seems like a significant effort. But it 40,000 people can’t effectively monitor the 2.9B monthly active users. Nor does ~$2B/year sound like a lot when they announce a commitment of ~$10B/year to build out a new product line.

More in my discussion with Robyn for CBC Ottawa Morning 👆.

References - The Facebook Papers