Facebook’s broken wishes | The New Yorker


Bosworth argued that his note was meant to provoke debate, not to be taken at face value, but that it spoke clearly about the opinions expressed within the company. This is the downside of a delusional sense of mission: the loss of all ethical benchmarks.

“An Ugly Truth” is the result of fifteen years of reporting. Frenkel and Kang, award-winning journalists for the Times, interviewed over four hundred people, mostly Facebook employees, past and present, for over a thousand hours. Many people who spoke to them were violating non-disclosure agreements. Frenkel and Kang also relied on a very leaky tap of “never-reported emails, memos and white papers involving or endorsed by senior executives.” They unofficially spoke to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, but Zuckerberg, who had cooperated with a 2020 book, “Facebook: The Inside Story” (Blue Rider), per the Wired editor-in-chief Steven Levy, declined to speak to them.

Zuckerberg started the company in 2004, as a sophomore at Harvard, with this mission statement: “Thefacebook is an online directory that connects people through social media at colleges. The recording of an online chat is a reminder that he was, at the time, a teenager:

ZUCK: I have more than 4000 emails, photos, addresses, sns
FRIEND: what ?! how did you handle that one?
ZUCK: people just submitted it
ZUCK: I do not know why
ZUCK: they trust me “
ZUCK: stupid fuck

Zuckerberg dropped out of school, moved to California, and raised a lot of venture capital. The network has improved and expanded. Zuckerberg ended the meetings by punching his fist and shouting “Domination!” New features were rolled out as quickly as possible to fuel growth. “Fuck it, ship it” has become a company slogan. Facebook announced a new mission in 2006, the year it introduced the News Feed: “Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you. Growth in the number of users mattered, but so did another metric: the time a user spent on the site. The purpose of the news feed was to drive this second measure.

“Facebook was the world’s largest test lab, with a quarter of the planet’s population as test subjects,” Frenkel and Kang write. Zuckerberg was particularly obsessed with regular polls that asked users if Facebook is “good for the world” (a tally abbreviated as GFW). When Facebook implemented changes like demoting lies in the News Feed, GFW increased, but the amount of time users spent on Facebook decreased. Zuckerberg decided to reverse the changes.

During this time, he spoke, more and more, of his sense of mission, each new user another saved soul. He traveled the world to promote the idea. “For nearly ten years, Facebook has been on a mission to make the world more open and connected,” Zuckerberg wrote in 2013, in a Facebook post titled “Is connectivity a human right? It reads like a papal encyclical. Zuckerberg was overseas when Sandberg, the newly appointed chief operating officer of Facebook, protégé of Lawrence Summers and former vice president of Google, established an ambitious growth model. But, according to Frenkel and Kang, “as Facebook has entered new nations, no one has been tasked with monitoring deployments by keeping an eye on the complex political and cultural dynamics within those countries. No one wondered how the platform could be abused in a country like Myanmar, or wondered if there were enough content moderators to examine the hundreds of new languages ​​Facebook users across the globe would post in. . Facebook inadvertently ignited the conflict; its algorithms reward emotion, the hotter the better. Ultimately, the United Nations concluded that social media had played a “determining role” in the genocide and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, with some twenty-four thousand Rohingya killed and seven hundred thousand refugees. “We need to do more,” Zuckerberg and Sandberg would say over and over again. “We have to do better. “

Back in 2015, at that time, anyone paying attention could see that the news feed was wreaking havoc in journalism, especially in local news reporting, a new recruit named Andrew Anker offered to add a paid wall option to a feature called “Instant Articles”. “This meant that in order to continue seeing stories on a publication, readers had to be subscribed,” Levy writes. “Publishers were begging for something like this to monetize their stories on Facebook. But, Levy reports, when Anker pitched the idea to Zuckerberg, the CEO cut him off. “Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected,” Zuckerberg said. “I don’t understand how the subscription would make the world more open or connected.”

The following year, more than half of all Americans got their news from social media. In the 2016 presidential election, many were very misinformed. Russian hackers have created hundreds of fake Facebook accounts. They bought political ads. “I don’t want anyone using our tools to undermine democracy,” Zuckerberg said. “This is not what we stand for.” But, as Frenkel and Kang observe, “Trump and the Russian hackers have come to the same conclusion separately: they could exploit Facebook’s algorithms to work in their favor. It doesn’t matter whether a user, post, or article approves or disapproves of something Trump has said or done; Responding to it in any way raised their ranking, and the more intense the reaction, the higher the ranking. Trump has become inescapable. The news feed has become a Trump feed.

Caricature by Michael Crawford

In 2017, Zuckerberg went on a listening tour in the United States. “My job is to connect the world and give everyone a voice,” he announced, messianically. “I personally want to hear more of these voices this year.” He gave motivational speeches. “We have to build a world where each person has a purpose and a community – this is how we will bring the world together,” he told a crowd of Facebook group administrators. “I know we can do it! And he came up with a new mission statement.

“An Ugly Truth” is a work of muckraking, a form of investigative journalism perfected by Ida Tarbell in a series of essays published in Mcclure between 1902 and 1904 about John D. Rockefeller’s company, Standard Oil. When Samuel McClure decided to put a big chunk on the monopolies, Tarbell suggested the sugar trust, but, as Steve Weinberg reported in his 2008 book, “Taking on the Trust,” McClure wanted it. writes on Standard Oil. It was partly because it was such a good story, and partly because of Tarbell’s family history: she had grown up near an oilfield and Rockefeller had more or less put her father on the bankruptcy.

Standard Oil, founded in 1870, had, like Facebook, been the subject of close scrutiny in its business practices from the start. In 1872 and 1876 it had been the subject of hearings in Congress; in 1879 Rockefeller was called to hearings before committees in Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio; Standard Oil executives were summoned several times by the Interstate Commerce Commission after its creation in 1887; the company was re-investigated by Congress in 1888 and by Ohio for more than a decade, and has been the subject of a number of private prosecutions. Previous journalists had also tried to obtain the goods. In 1881, the Chicago Tribune journalist Henry Demarest Lloyd wrote an article for Atlantic titled “The Story of a Great Monopoly”. Lloyd accused the oil trust of bribing politicians, for example, “doing everything with the Pennsylvania legislature, except refining it.” He concludes: “America has the proud satisfaction of having provided the world with the largest, wisest, and meanest monopoly known in history.

Lloyd wrote something between an essay and a controversy. Tarbell took a different approach, drawing on the research skills she had learned as a Lincoln biographer. “Neither Standard Oil and Rockefeller nor any powerful American institution had ever met a journalist like Tarbell,” Weinberg writes. She also, in a sort of premiere, revealed her sources to readers, explaining that she had visited state and federal legislatures and courthouses and obtained the records of all of those lawsuits and investigations and even of all those private lawsuits, “the testimony of which,” she wrote, “is still handwritten in the files of the courts where the lawsuits were tried.” She unearthed old newspaper articles (quite difficult to obtain at the time) and wrote to Standard Oil’s competitors, asking them to send any correspondence that might shed light on Rockefeller’s anti-competitive practices. She also tried to speak to Standard Oil executives, but, did she writes, “I had been confronted with this worded chatter used by those who accepted a creed.” Finally, she found a source within the company, Henry Rogers, who had known her father. writes Stephanie Gorton in his recent book ‘Citizen Reporters’ Tarbell’ visited Standard Oil’s offices at 26 Broadway regularly for two years. Each time, she entered the imposing colonnaded building and was immediately taken by an assistant from the lobby via a roundabout and private path to Rogers’ office, out of sight of Standard Oil employees who might recognize her, and who no one other than Rogers has spoken to. and his secretary. Because Mcclure published the serial work, the evidence kept coming; even as Tarbell wrote, disgruntled competitors and employees continued to send him letters and memos. Like the Boston World in other words, she was “writing an unfinished story.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.