Few elements reflect in such a concise and visual way the change of perception towards Facebook in the last ten years as the passage through the cover of Time by its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. In 2010 he was declared character of the year. In 2021 they are unsubtle inviting to delete Facebook. Either the app or the company.
A lot has happened between both covers. A small resume:
– In 2012 he did a psychological experiment with 70,000 participants without their consent. He would remove certain words from his news walls to test how that affected his reactions to those posts.
– In 2016 it had several controversies for censoring certain information that questioned its content moderation policies by themselves, denoting arbitrariness.
– The 2016 US presidential elections were marked by misinformation spread on Facebook: fake news outnumbered real news.
– In 2018 Facebook was used by the Myanmar military to incite genocide against the Rohingya minority.
– The Cambridge Analytica case uncovered the disproportionate amount of information that a Facebook algorithm captures from a user with a mere dozen of likes.
– In turn, it uncovered the lightness with which Facebook handles our data and how extremely easy it was for countless companies to access them.
– We learned of Facebook’s knowledge of “psychological operations” that Cambridge Analytica was engaged in with the aim of changing people’s minds through the “information domain”.
– After the purchase of WhatsApp, Facebook said it did not want to even be able to link the user profiles of both applications to increase data collection. That was exactly what they have been doing since this year.
FACEBOOK keeps a record of ALL the WEBS that you visit so you can DEACTIVATE IT
“But wait, there’s still more!”
And now it adds to the list The Facebook Files, a report leaked by Frances Haugen, former product manager of the social network who has accused the company, first anonymously and then revealing its identity, of encouraging polarizing and divisive content, of offering weak responses to content around the human trafficking, organ sales, violence against ethnic minorities, drugs or pornography. Types of content prohibited by Facebook regulations, which in many cases, according to the documentation provided by Haugen, had weak responses, if not null.
Not even Facebook itself is capable of handling its algorithm, something that can legally complicate its next few years
“I am here today because I believe that Facebook products harm children, fuel division and weaken our democracy,” Heugen told the Senate. At best, someone in good faith may think that Facebook is simply unable to precisely control what is and is not displayed on its users’ walls.
The operation of the Facebook algorithm is based on the fact that there is not a single algorithm nor is it centralized by a single department, but the machine learning models are being added by the company’s own engineers based on the objectives that have been assigned to your work team. This dynamic implies that there may be algorithms whose objectives conflict with others.. Like a competition. The complexity has grown so much that it is extremely difficult to make modifications.
That can be especially bad news for Facebook: If your algorithm has become unmanageable, it will be even harder for you to take responsibility. Two years ago a senator asked Zuckerberg about the segregation of Facebook and Instagram and putting them up for sale, obtaining a refusal. At that time it was just an approach without a legal imperative.
Haugen decided to leave Facebook when the company decided to disrupt the “civic integrity” team, a department created to “serve the interest of the people first, not that of Facebook.” That was in 2020, after the presidential election that Biden won, and many employees felt that the dissolution was intended to stop concentrating power in a team with priorities different from those of the company: putting the social interest before the corporate one.
Now what? We looked at the cover of Time in 2010 and we feel a bit sillyWe entrust our data, tastes, information and even personality tests (WTF) to the applications of a company that has broken its promises time and time again. The quarterly figures offered by that company continue to break their own records.
Zuckerberg must feel worse, seeing his 26-year-old face under the label “character of the year,” with nostalgia for a better life, the one from when I really only had rich problems (do curls childish too much? Which of all the photography apps should we buy?). Now luckily his concerns are also others, It remains to be seen how long we will have to worry about.