This blog has been written by me Fiona Catchpowle as a direct response to the two part documentary by Frontline & PBS. First shown on 29 & 30 October 2018.
31/10/2018: The programs are currently blocked in the UK via YouTube and the PBS website from where it was also streamed. I have uploaded the programs to my Facebook Page and currently these links are still valid. Part 1 and Part 2
Its approx 4 hours ago since I finished watching part 2, and I still feel sick. As a Facebook Marketer for the last 8 years and avid supporter of the platform, I wasn’t prepared for what I heard and saw. Most of the basic facts I was aware of, but much of the background detail I was not. However, the intensely nauseating aspect is the impact & consequences of the actions of Team Facebook as a whole, which are dumbfounding and appalling.
There are 2 main topics that are considered in the broadcasts, Information manipulation & Privacy.
The “get out of jail free” card for Facebook is that they stand behind the fact they are a technology company and not a media company. However, they are the biggest news distributor in the world. With no regulatory oversight how are they able to relinquish responsibility?
They wipe their hands of the issue by saying, it’s down to the people. The information ecosystem, Facebook declare, has evolved this way due to the consumer and it’s our own fault if fake news prevails and lies become truth.
In Part 2 the buck is well and truly passed to the consumer by Monika Bickert (Fred) – Facebook Head of Global Policy Mgt. When the correspondent James Jacoby mentioned that the UN declared that Facebook played a significant role in the genocide in Myanmar in 2016, she was then asked by Jacoby,
“Should there be any liability or any legal accountability for a company like Facebook when something so disastrous goes wrong on your platform?”
She replied – “there´s all sorts of accountability, but probably the group that holds us most accountable are the people using the service. If it´s not a safe place for them to come and communicate there, they´re not going to use it”. A crass and careless comment which for me clearly highlighted no lesson has been learnt by Team Facebook.
The repeated we were “too slow” to respond line is an insult to our intelligence. When you consider the timeline of warnings and disasters, versus the Facebook corp reaction, their glib response is an abomination on a massive scale.
In a world where the number of Facebook Users grew exponentially due to their focus on growth which proved well within their skill set, they couldn’t allow themselves to be distracted by repairing a huge hole in the Facebook Democracy because it was too much of a challenge. I call BULLSHIT.
The algorithm doesn’t know the difference between good and bad news, but people do. This has massive consequences. They knew back in 2012 that disinformation on Facebook was being used as a weapon. If I took 6 years to react to an issue in my business, I would not have one left.
One of the biggest sickening factors for me on watching The Facebook Dilemma, was that even though they had hardcore knowledge and facts accumulated over a long period of time on how the platform was being used for bad, you’ll find a Growth Team at Facebook, but where was the Awareness Team?
They have left it to our common sense and decency to police the site. They have terms and conditions in place, yet do not react in accordance with those terms, but they are accountable to who? Us, that’s who.
NB: I teach business owners how to create ethical and honest content, with the intention of engaging their clients in a conversation. I do not encourage manipulation of information in association with deceit.
In 2011 they were still playing down how much data they held on people, and despite the fact they were supposedly fixing privacy issues in theory were still sharing data with 3rd parties. Malicious actors were known about and they had access to our data. Facebook were not concerned with vulnerability despite the huge flaws. The business model drove the mission.
Fake accounts are prolific, yet not closed down. It is way too easy to create a fake account. If this was licensed and required more intense verification then it would significantly reduce the speed at which fake news can proliferate and make a reaction more likely to be accurate and effective. Simple steps like this are not rocket science.
You can see from Team Facebook’s public appearances in the filming that privacy & security was their front of house priority, but they used ambiguous terminology to avoid making it clear what was actually going on. They did not make clear to the consumer that they were a surveillance machine.
Advertisers and Marketers knew about the tracking, but as the collection of data grew to a monumental scale the consequences of the mining became more apparent and so did Facebook’s deceit and lack of honesty about what was actually going on.
NB: I can’t claim to be innocent here, as I do know a lot about the tracking, having worked with Facebook Ads for my own benefit and other’s. From a user experience and being able to reach potential customers, I am mostly in the OK camp on tracking for well managed and monitored campaigns.
What I am not OK about is how this area of the Facebook business model caused sacrifices at the expense of protecting communities from news feed manipulation. Literally at the cost of human lives as declared by the UN. Repeatedly asked to intervene as their own platform tools were weaponized, particularly with reference to data collection, advertising and fake accounts, they did nothing.
At the F8 Facebook Developer Conference on May 1st 2018 Mark Zuckerberg said in his opening address,
“There´s no guarantee we´re going to get this right. This is hard stuff. We will make mistakes and they will have consequences and we will need to fix them so, if you believe, like I do, that giving people a voice is important, that building relationships is important, that creating a sense of community is important and that doing the hard work of trying to bring the world closer together is important, then I say this, we will keep building.”
He already knew 100% at that point in time his open to all communication policy, led to news feed manipulation multiple times, at a monumental level which, had cost lives.
The Zuckerberg technological optimism has hit a brick wall and Facebook needs to stop for a second, look back, learn and fix, before moving forward.
In Part One inside 4 minutes he says “Make things happen and apologise later”.
Your renegade philosophy and disrespect for authority stops now Mark. Please.