‘Operating in the shadows’: Facebook’s Zuckerberg brushes aside allegations
A day earlier, US lawmakers accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of pushing for higher profits while being cavalier about user safety National Web Desk October 06, 2021
“It is difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives,” Zuckerberg said, adding that at the most basic level, he thinks most of us just don’t recognise the false picture of the company that is being painted.
‘Many claims don’t make any sense’
He asserted that many of the claims “don’t make any sense.”
“If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create an industry-leading research programme to understand these important issues in the first place? If we didn’t care about fighting harmful content, then why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other company in our space — even ones larger than us?” he questioned.
“If we wanted to hide our results, why would we have established an industry-leading standard for transparency and reporting on what we are doing? And if social media were as responsible for polarising society as some people claim, then why are we seeing polarisation increase in the US while it stays flat or declines in many countries with just as heavy use of social media around the world?”
Zuckerberg was of the view that at the heart of these accusations is the idea that the company prioritise profit over safety and well-being.
“That is just not true,” he reiterated.
Shedding light on the criticism faced after the social media giant introduced meaningful social interactions change to the news feed, he said: “This change showed fewer viral videos and more content from friends and family — which we did know would mean people spent less time on Facebook, but that research suggested it was the right thing for people’s well-being.”
“Is that something a company focused on profits over people would do?” he questioned.
Sharing the dynamic of earning a profit, Zuckerberg said that the argument that they deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is “deeply illogical”.
We make money from ads
“We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content. And I don’t know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed. The moral, business and product incentives all point in the opposite direction,” he clarified.
Addressing his employees, he wrote: “Like many of you, I found it difficult to read the mischaracterisation of the research into how Instagram affects young people.”
“As we wrote in our Newsroom post explaining that the research demonstrated that many teens we heard from the feel that using Instagram helps them when they are struggling with the kinds of hard moments and issues teenagers have always faced.”
He further explained that in 11 of 12 areas on the slide referenced by the Journal — including serious areas like loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues — more teenage girls who said they struggled with that issue also said “Instagram made those difficult times better rather than worse.”
“We have worked for years on industry-leading efforts to help people in these moments and I am proud of the work we’ve done. We constantly use our research to improve this work further.”
Zuckerberg said that he was worried about the incentives that are being set here. “We have an industry-leading research programme so that we can identify important issues and work on them. It is disheartening to see that work taken out of context and used to construct a false narrative that we don’t care,” he added.
He told his employees that he knows that it is “frustrating to see the good work we do get mischaracterised, especially for those of you who are making important contributions across safety, integrity, research and product.”