Facebook Papers: What accusations weigh on the social network?

SURVEY | According to several internal documents (Facebook Papers) provided to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC, American federal body for regulation and control of the financial markets, Editor’s note) by a whistleblower, the Facebook group has on several occasions allowed celebrities and politicians to escape the rules of the platform. Moreover, these documents show that the CEO of the group, Mark Zuckerberg, yielded to the demands of the Vietnamese government. The latter demanded that Facebook censor anti-government messages on the social network.


Although the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerbergasked its employees to demonstrate “irreproachable neutrality”, the FinancialTimes report that company executives, including Mark Zuckerberg himself, have regularly ‘interfered’ to let celebrities and politicians override the platform’s rules, despite employee protests. Furthermore, after several complaints from Republican politicians, Facebook CEO would personally intervene to re-upload a video that had been taken down because it contained misrepresentations about abortion. Policy report that Facebook lobbyists have a similar influence.

the Washington Post indicates, also citing anonymous sources, that Mark Zuckerberg gave in to the requests from the Vietnamese government which called for the censorship of publications by anti-government dissidents. Facebook has deleted 2200 publications between July and December 2020against 834 during the previous six months.

The group Apple momentarily threatened to remove Facebook and Instagram from its App Store over the platforms’ use of these platforms to ‘buy and sell’ Filipino maids, reporter CNN and Associated press. Although Apple backtracked after Facebook promised to “crack down” on the issue, Associated press affirm that the action of the group will be “limited”because this issue is part of a larger problem of human trafficking that the social network is facing.

Facebook has taken no comprehensive action against users with multiple accountswhile the group is aware that these accounts represent a “massive source” of “toxic” political messages on the platform and are “spreaders of dangerous political activity”, according to Policy.

The Facebook Papers show that the company dominates the market, with 78% of all adult users use the social network and “almost every American teenager” using the group’s various platforms. This information could help the Federal Trade Commission (US Federal Trade Commission, Ed) in its lawsuit against Facebook for abuse of dominant position and illegal monopoly.

the Washington Post also reports that the company has been deleted less than 5% of hate speech on its platform, while Mark Zuckerberg told the US Congress last year that the company was removing 94%. In addition, the Facebook CEO disapproved of the idea of ​​setting up a Spanish-language voting information center for the US presidential election, as he felt that such a center would not be “politically neutral”.

In the spring, Facebook employees sounded the alarm over the platform’s poor ability to moderate anti-vaccine content. According to a memo, detection of “vaccine-hostile comments is poor in English, and non-existent elsewhere.” However, the company took months to correct this problem, reports The edge.

always according to The edgeFacebook groups countries into different “tiers” to determine the resources the company allocates to elections in each state. The group does not provide assistance to lower-tier countries unless specific election-related content is flagged for moderation.

Facebook studied the platform’s “basic features”, such as the “Like” and “Share” buttons, and found that they “allowed misinformation and hate speech to thrive on the social network “, reports the New York Times. However, the leaders blocked all changes so as not to stifle the growth of the group and to “maintain user engagement”. This inaction is representative of a larger phenomenon: Facebook has “abandoned or delayed” measures that could have reduced “disinformation and radicalization”.

Although Facebook has conducted extensive research demonstrating its declining popularity among young people, Bloomberg report that the company “misrepresented” this information to investors failing to showcase its declining popularity with certain demographics and focusing on overall growth.

Facebook papers are also used the group often prioritizes “political considerations” in decision-makingin order to appear impartial, and grants the most influential right-wing publishers “special treatment” that allows them to escape sanctions for disinformation, specifies the the wall street journal. A Facebook employee noted in a memo that the company has implemented ‘special exceptions’ for the conservative news site Breitbar and “even sustained support” by including the site link in the “News” tab of the platform.

Also according to the Facebook Papers, the company removed “safeguards” intended to prevent the spread of false electoral information after the day of the American election and before the attack on the Capitol on January 6th. In addition, Facebook employees believe that the group did not react enough after the violence began on January 6.

the the wall street journal and the Washington Post report that Facebook conducted extensive internal research that provided recommendations on how the platform could stop the spread of extremist content. However, “in many cases, leaders have refused to implement these measures. ” Besides, Facebook’s efforts to ban QAnon and other conspiratorial groups have come under internal criticism. Indeed, the group’s experts considered these efforts to be “piecemeal” and failed to halt the movement’s “meteoric growth”.

the the wall street journal indicates that Facebook takes a ‘finicky’ approach to banning extremist movements, by carrying out “surgical strikes” on individual entities the group deems dangerous, rather than taking a “more systematic approach” that executives say would stifle Facebook’s growth.

Hate speech and misinformation on Facebook have flourished and often gone unchecked in India, Facebook’s biggest market, especially when it comes to anti-Muslim content and incitement to violence. However, internal research has shown the full extent of the problem. Furthermore, Facebook has not been able to control a lot of content in India, because the group lacks the capacity to effectively moderate and verify posts in the country’s 22 official languages, including Hindi and Bengali. Yet these two languages ​​are respectively the fourth and seventh most spoken languages ​​in the world. Associated press and Wired report that the platform is having similar issues with Arabic and content moderation in the Middle East. Finally, two Hindu nationalist groups have not been banned from the social network despite the dissemination of anti-Muslim content or incitement to violence. Both groups have ties to the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modiand his political party.

According to the Facebook Papers, Facebook devotes 87% of its resources to the fight against misinformation in the United States, which leaves only 13% of the resources for the rest of the world. Outside, Facebook devotes 84% ​​of its “global attributions/language coverage” to the United States (the group disputed those numbers, saying they don’t account for third-party fact-checkers, so many are overseas). In addition to India, the Facebook Papers revealed that the platform has encountered problems controlling content from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Indonesia.


“I find it difficult to accept my values ​​while working here,” wrote a Facebook employee on the group’s internal message board on January 6. “I came here hoping to bring about change and improve society, but all I saw was corruption and abandonment of responsibility. »


The Facebook group has largely defended itself against these accusations and highlighted the company’s efforts to combat misinformation and extremism. “At the heart of these articles is a premise that is false,” said Joe OsborneFacebook spokesperson, in an interview with FinancialTimes. “Yes, we are a business and we make a profit, but the idea that we are doing so at the expense of the safety or well-being of the population does not align with our business interests. The truth is that we have invested $13 billion and that we apply more than 40,000 people to do one job: keep users safe on Facebook. »

Saturday October 23, the vice-president of Facebook in charge of international affairs, Nick Clegg, told employees that they should “show solid ground and expect more bad headlines in the days to come.” »

Facebook has long faced criticism for its alleged failure to stop misinformation and hate speech on its platform, but those accusations have intensified in recent weeks after the whistleblower Frances Haugen aired on the show 60 minutes. She also testified before the United States Congress about the charges against the company. A former member of Facebook’s civic integrity team, Frances Haugen, said the group had “put astronomical profits before people”. She urged award-winning Americans to take action against Facebook, whose practices are “significantly worse” than she has seen at other social media companies.

In addition to stories about India and the Capitol Riots on January 6, the Wall newspaper used the Facebook Papers to produce a series of articles on various social network channels:

  • Facebook’s moderation policy (VIP users of the social network will be exempt from moderation rules).
  • The fact that the company is aware of the “toxic” effect of Instagram (especially on teenagers).
  • The algorithm change in 2018 that resulted in making the platform and its users “angrier.”
  • The company’s weak response to publications from drug cartels and human traffickers.
  • Facebook’s inability to police anti-vaccination content.
  • The company’s plans to attract tweens to its platforms.
  • How company employee rosters have changed.
  • Employee doubts about the effectiveness of Facebook’s use of artificial intelligence.
  • The company’s struggle to detect users with multiple accounts on its platform.

Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Alison Durkee

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