Facebook

Yep, just regular, ol’ Facebook

Why Facebook? Why not other social media? Why not something new like Parler?

Well, because Facebook has 2.45 billion monthly active users, has been involved in dozens of ethics violations, and shows no signs of stopping in the foreseeable future.

And while users know much of this, most show no desire to stop using the platform.

12/10/20 ETA: At the time of publication, we had no idea that lawsuits would be filed against Facebook this week. While the lawsuits will likely take years, it’s worth noting that the platform’s problematic behavior is increasingly under the microscope. You can click here and here to find out more.

A place for hate to thrive

Facebook has proved time and again that it is completely impotent when it comes to curbing things like hate speech. And this is despite seeing the worst-case scenario play out.

In August 2017, over 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state after a “military crackdown” that involved the mass killing and rape of refugees. In 2018, U.N. human rights investigators concluded that Facebook played a key role in spreading the hate speech that had fueled what many have called genocide.

Facebook itself commissioned an independent report:

The report concludes that, prior to this year, we weren’t doing enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence. We agree that we can and should do more.

Ya think?

And yet it’s still not cooperating in investigations into the genocide.

Are you concerned about racist hate speech in your own country? It’s not a good look to use Facebook to address systemic racism when you ignore the platform’s role in systematic atrocities.

A menace to democracy

Genocide not enough for you?

Facebook has also provided a place for misinformation to thrive. Then there’s their relentless scraping of personal information that they use to “improve the user experience.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s platform not only managed to accumulate enough data to fuel Cambridge Analytica’s quest to influence elections via social media manipulation but left users’ data vulnerable enough to be accessed by the firm without permission or users’ knowledge.

It also provided a place for Russian trolls to thrive while building a complex web of conspiracy theories that interfered in the 2018 election. Over 10 million people saw ads purchased by trolls.

Now, in 2020, it’s a veritable wonderland of fake news – so much so that it’s hard for anyone to tell whether or not some stories are real.

But, hey, at least you know what grandma’s up to.

Facebook’s list of deceptive practices is easy enough to investigate and too long to list here. So why do so many people make excuses for continuing to use it?

Excuses

Saying that you “have to use it” because your kid’s school posts notices on there is a really weak response to, say, genocide.

Keeping in touch with family can be as easy as switching to texting, using another platform, or maybe just relinquishing your habit of checking in on people every 3 hours.

The fact that we are so entangled in the platform that it would seriously affect our lives to close our accounts is a sign that we’re being manipulated.

Facebook thinks it’s “neutral” but also “moving in the right direction.” That alone should make users wary of its ability to be a tool for good.

Further reading:

Natasha Lomas, “Facebook Data Misuse and Voter Manipulation Back In the Frame with Latest Cambridge Analytica Leaks” (TechCrunch, 2020)

Andrew Marantz, “Why Facebook Can’t Fix Itself” (The New Yorker, 2020)

(Paywalled) Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharaman, “Facebook Executives Shut Down Efforts to Make the Site Less Divisive” (The Wall Street Journal, 2020)

Casey Newton, “What Facebook Doesn’t Understand About the Facebook Walkout” (The Verge, 2020)

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski, “Facebook’s Own Civil Rights Auditors Say Its Policy Decisions Are A ‘Tremendous Setback’” (The Washington Post, 2020)

Olivia Solon, “Facebook Ignored Racial Bias Research, Employees Say” (NBC News, 2020)

Irina Raicu, “A Different Kind of Facebook Privacy Violation” (Markkula Center for Ethics, 2018)

Paul Mozur, “A Genocide Incited on Facebook, With Posts From Myanmar’s Military” (New York Times, 2018)

Alexandra Stevenson, “Facebook Admits It Was Used to Incite Violence in Myanmar” (New York Times, 2018)

Philip Bump, “All the Ways Trump’s Campaign Was Aided By Facebook, Ranked By Importance” (The Washington Post, 2018)