Things aren’t looking good for Facebook. Perhaps that’s an understatement. According to a series of investigations carried out by the Wall Street Journal:
“Facebook Inc. knows, in acute detail, that its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm, often in ways only the company fully understands. That is the central finding of a Wall Street Journal series, based on a review of internal Facebook documents, including research reports, online employee discussions and drafts of presentations to senior management.”
Which sounds – and is – terrible. But it’s nothing the company hasn’t tried to sort out, right? Well herein lies the problem. As the Journal report continues:
“Time and again, the documents show, Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects. Time and again, despite congressional hearings, its own pledges and numerous media exposés, the company didn’t fix them. The documents offer perhaps the clearest picture thus far of how broadly Facebook’s problems are known inside the company, up to the chief executive himself.”
Backed by documents provided by whistleblower Frances Haugen, the report found Facebook’s impact was particularly troubling for teenage girls, with Instagram (owned by Facebook) found to be harmful for a sizeable percentage of teenagers, particularly when it comes to their mental health.
Meanwhile, other documents examined by the Journal found Facebook employees had repeatedly flagged concerns over how the platform is used in developing countries, especially in regard to drug smuggling, human trafficking (“Employees flagged that human traffickers in the Middle East used the site to lure women into abusive employment situations”), inciting violence against ethnic minorities, organ selling, pornography, and government action against political dissent. According to the Journal report, the documents they have obtained “also show the company’s response, which in many instances is inadequate or nothing at all.”
The report also found Facebook allowed the spread of inaccurate information to go unchecked.
Add this to the outage that sunk Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and more earlier this month thanks to the loss of IP routes to the Facebook Domain Name System (DNS) servers and there’s plenty of reasons to be angry. Indeed, Wired recently published an article titled “How to Permanently Delete Your Facebook Account – If you’ve finally hit your breaking point, here’s how to say goodbye to Mark Zuckerberg’s empire.”
This isn’t the first time the social network has come under fire – and with Haugen set to testify against Facebook in the US and possibly elsewhere, the saga is far from over. But will this be the scandal that finally sinks Zuckerberg’s empire, or simply just another batch of negative headlines to ride out?
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