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Facebook has plenty to say about documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’

In a seven-part report, Fb calls the Netflix movie by Jeff Orlowski a “conspiracy documentary” which “buries the substance in sensationalism.” We dissect the report for you:


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Watched The Social Dilemma? Maybe it has shaken up your family’s perspective of how your offline lives are mediated by those you lead on-line.

The Jeff Orlowski-directed documentary, which struck a chord with many netizens upon its international launch in September, has already been bookmarked as a favorite amongst anti-trust regulators who’re greater than desirous to see the downfall of the world’s largest social media entities.

The movie, serving as a ‘burn e-book’ of all the large Web corporations, options first-person accounts from a number of ‘whistleblowers’ who’ve labored at Fb, Twitter, Google and extra. All of them left these organisations based mostly on moral considerations. By way of Fb, a lot of the knowledge got here immediately from Justin Rosenstein, the previous co-creator of the Fb ‘like’ button.

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg; Justin Rosenstein co-creator Facebook ‘like’ button

Fb CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg; Justin Rosenstein co-creator Fb ‘like’ button

As October 2020 kicked off, Fb has now printed a rebuttal to The Social Dilemma; it addresses the platform’s notoriety for bypassing customers’ privateness, the fast unfold of misinformation, faux information and hate speech, the development of political polarisation, and threats in opposition to the inherent values of elections.

The report ‘What The Social Dilemma Will get Incorrect’ by Fb, a seven-part breakdown of the corroborated arguments made within the movie, was posted on its official web site and attributed to no specific spokesperson. “The movie’s creators don’t embody insights from these at present working on the corporations or any consultants that take a distinct view of the narrative put ahead by the movie. They don’t acknowledge — critically or in any other case — the efforts already taken by corporations to deal with lots of the points they increase. As a substitute, they depend on commentary from those that haven’t been on the within for a few years,” it states, including the movie is “distorted” in its strategy.

Psychological well being and worry

Fb claims its News Feed, is “not incentivised to construct options that improve time-spent on our merchandise. As a substitute, we wish to ensure that we provide worth to individuals, not simply drive utilization.”

The platform refers to a 2018 change to News Feed whereby they adjusted the rating in customers’ timelines “to prioritise significant social interactions and deprioritise issues like viral movies. The change led to a lower of fifty [million] hours a day price of time spent on Fb.” The corporate factors out they’ve been actively working with psychological well being organisations to additional perceive the results social media has on customers. For instance, in April 2020, Fb launched Quiet Time, a digital well-being characteristic that helps customers spend sure time slots on the platform — however few know of this characteristic.

Most likely one of many extra mind-boggling arguments Fb, to its credit score, acknowledges is its leveraging of algorithmic energy simply as Netflix does, “to find out who it thinks ought to watch The Social Dilemma movie.”

Fb seemingly waves off the priority round algorithms. Sure, algorithms are the norm however pay attention to the idea’s evolution. Whereas algorithms began out as a manner for expertise to assist rank searches based on the consumer’s shared information, they’ve been developed to turn into one in all Web corporations’ favorite surveillance ways. On this case, Fb states, “portraying algorithms as ‘mad’ might make good fodder for conspiracy documentaries, however the actuality is quite a bit much less entertaining.” Nevertheless, many who’ve watched The Social Dilemma wouldn’t essentially categorise it as ‘leisure’ however extra as a actuality test.

We can not communicate of algorithms with out talking of promoting. Fb claims they’re “funded by promoting in order that it stays free for individuals… We don’t promote your data to anybody.” The platform insists that they “present advertisers with reviews in regards to the sorts of people who find themselves seeing their advertisements and the way their advertisements are performing, however [they] don’t share data that personally identifies you except you give [them] permission.”

Fb-owned Instagram, which turns 10 on October 6, 2020, has one of the crucial contentious News Feeds throughout social networking platforms; its evolution has gone from merely that includes posts in a chronological order in publishing of these in a consumer’s circle to interspersing algorithm-driven sponsored and beneficial posts throughout the essential News Feed and Discover pages. Sadly, Instagram nonetheless tells you what you have to see.

October 23, 2019 : Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on "An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors" in Washington, DC on October 23, 2019.

October 23, 2019 : Fb Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify earlier than the Home Monetary Providers Committee on “An Examination of Fb and Its Influence on the Monetary Providers and Housing Sectors” in Washington, DC on October 23, 2019.
| Photograph Credit score:

The Social Dilemma makes robust references to the Cambridge Analytica information breach of 2018, which led to Fb CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg sitting via a gruelling Senate listening to that very same 12 months. Zuckerberg was requested whether or not or not Fb would nonetheless have entry to a consumer’s data ought to they delete their data and account from the platform. Zuckerberg responded Fb will be unable to entry any data or content material a consumer shared prior to now. Nevertheless, some third-party apps should have entry to a few of this information. Curiously, even when customers delete their accounts, it may well take as much as 90 days for Fb to take away content material such images and updates saved in backup programs.

Fb reiterates they don’t need customers’ private information and that they help regulation, elaborating, “We’ve got insurance policies that prohibit companies from sending us delicate information about individuals, together with customers’ well being data or social safety numbers, via enterprise instruments just like the Fb Pixel (a snippet of JavaScript code that permits you to observe customer exercise in your web site) and SDK (an Android-specific builders’ line of code which incorporates monitoring and site visitors analytics, and monitoring of consumer behaviour and advertisements engagements).”

Social media and politics

Polarisation and populism have existed lengthy earlier than social media. This level could also be a bit of ‘gray space’ just because polarisation continues to be a reasonably fluid time period, the place one can use it in each macro (platform integrity and variety) and micro (smaller scale partisanship) senses.

Notably, The Social Dilemma addresses the scope of radicalisation via social media; within the movie’s dramatised parallel storyline, a teen is uncovered to a obscure type of it via YouTube and Fb.

“The overwhelming majority of the content material that folks see on Fb shouldn’t be polarising and even political — it’s on a regular basis content material from individuals’s family and friends,” Fb states, “We scale back the quantity of content material that would drive polarisation, together with hyperlinks to clickbait headlines or misinformation.”

In Could 2020, The Wall Avenue Journal printed an exposé, based mostly on inner paperwork and interviews with present and former staff, on how Fb truly encourages divisiveness throughout its customers. The article ‘Fb Executives Shut Down Efforts to Make the Website Much less Divisive’ states, ‘“Our algorithms exploit the human mind’s attraction to divisiveness,’ learn a slide from a 2018 presentation. ‘If left unchecked,’ it warned, Fb would feed customers ‘increasingly more divisive content material to realize consumer consideration and improve time on the platform.’” Fb, not taking kindly to this text, printed a report on their investments into decreasing platform-specific polarisation, as they’ve accomplished on this rebuttal to The Social Dilemma.

Dozens of cardboard cut-outs of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sit outside of the U.S. Capitol Building as part of an protest in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Dozens of cardboard cut-outs of Fb CEO Mark Zuckerberg sit exterior of the U.S. Capitol Constructing as a part of an protest in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photograph
| Photograph Credit score:
Leah Millis REUTERS

The aforementioned makes for a pure segue to elections and misinformation. “We’ve acknowledged that we made errors in 2016. But the movie leaves out what we’ve accomplished since 2016 to construct robust defences to cease individuals from utilizing Fb to intrude in elections,” says the Fb report, referring to its use of round 3000 Russian-backed advertisements which had been then turned over to Congress.

Regarding the upcoming US Presidential election, Fb explains, “We’ve got insurance policies prohibiting voter suppression and within the US, between March and Could this 12 months alone, we eliminated greater than 1,00,000 items of Fb and Instagram content material for violating our voter interference insurance policies,” and have additionally “up to date our insurance policies to counter makes an attempt by a candidate or marketing campaign to prematurely declare victory or delegitimise the election by questioning official outcomes.”

Fb states they don’t profit from misinformation, including, “We don’t need hate speech on our platform and work to take away it… We all know our programs aren’t excellent and there are issues that we miss.” The corporate provides they’ve eliminated over 22 million items of hate speech within the second quarter of 2020, over 94% of which they discovered earlier than somebody reported it. They are saying this is a rise from 1 / 4 earlier after they eliminated 9.6 million posts, over 88% of which they discovered earlier than some reported it to the platform.


The Social Dilemma has stirred a web based rebellion round not simply privateness however about psychological well being, and the facility held by these corporations. If the movie’s mission was to additional fracture our belief within the on-line, it has labored on an excellent many — and Fb is aware of it. To be truthful, many have questioned the movie’s inherent goal: ‘can we boycott these platforms altogether (is that even potential?)’, and ‘what can do about it now when erasing a digital footprint is close to unimaginable?’

Fb’s report goals to function a reminder of its constructive (albeit sluggish) change after years of ongoing scandal and their common statements of ‘we’re working to alter this’. Regardless of coverage adjustments and worldwide hearings, The Social Dilemma reminds us we have to maybe reverse-engineer the state of affairs, and begin at house.

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