Is Facebook responsible for the impact of the content it serves up, or isn’t it?
Well, we’ve already seen what Zuckerberg thinks, but over on Buzzfeed, Sheera Frenkel’s citing a group of Faceborg staffers who don’t agree with him — and are evidently prepared to risk a great deal in challenging the company’s official position. They’re taking the impact of fake news and phony content seriously:
“It’s not a crazy idea. What’s crazy is for him to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows, and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season,” said one Facebook employee, who works in the social network’s engineering division.
We’ve discussed this before, but when one of its own platform designers says stuff like this …
As former Facebook designer Bobby Goodlatte wrote on his own Facebook wall on November 8, “Sadly, News Feed optimizes for engagement. As we’ve learned in this election, bullshit is highly engaging. A bias towards truth isn’t an impossible goal. Wikipedia, for instance, still bends towards the truth despite a massive audience. But it’s now clear that democracy suffers if our news environment incentivizes bullshit.”
… well, it’s hard to argue that fake news doesn’t have an effect.
FB + Twitter cannot take credit for changing the world during events like the Egyptian Uprising, then downplay their influence on elections
— this is not normal. (@karenkho) November 13, 2016
In the meantime, it seems that while Faceborg may have been influenced by fear of a right-wing backlash, it’s also taking steps to choke off advertising revenue for pushers of phony content. So while there’s no official quality control for “news,” it seems FB might be willing to go after the way those pushers make their money.
Stay tuned. This could get interesting.