New round of revelations about Facebook’s practices


According to several media, the social network was aware of the flow of disinformation in connection with the American presidential election of 2020, but did not react.

Facebook was aware of the radicalization of many users and the flood of disinformation related to the 2020 US presidential election, but did not react accordingly according to documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen, obtained by various American newspapers. These revelations are the latest in a long series, since a first wave of investigations published by the Wall Street Journal in September thanks to internal reports transmitted by this ex-employee of the Californian group. Friday, articles from New York Times, of Washington post or the NBC channel focused on the role of Facebook in the intense polarization of political life in the United States.

In early November, a few days after the poll, an analyst for example let his colleagues know that 10% of political content viewed by American users of the platform were messages assuring that the vote had been rigged, according to the New York Times. This baseless rumor, hammered out by ex-President Donald Trump, fueled the anger of many conservatives and conspirators, which culminated in the Capitol riots on January 6. Supporters of the Republican billionaire had that day invaded Congress during the certification of the victory of Democrat Joe Biden. Five people were killed during or shortly after the attack.

In the process, Facebook, like Twitter and other major platforms, banned Donald Trump and the extremist movements involved in the riots. But according to the new revelations published on Friday, employees of the Californian group believe that it could have better anticipated the problem. This information was extracted from thousands of internal documents submitted to the SEC, the stock exchange authority, by Frances Haugen. At the beginning of October, she repeated in front of American senators that the leaders of the firm, Mark Zuckerberg in mind, “Finance their profits with our security”.

It will be a flash in the pan. Elected officials will moan. And within a few weeks, they will have moved on. In the meantime we print money in the basement and everything is fine. “

Comment attributed to Tucker Bounds, member of the Facebook communications team

She had previously leaked studies showing that Facebook is aware of the psychological problems of teenage girls overexposed to the seemingly “perfect” lives and bodies of influencers on Instagram. This is the common thread of these revelations: the social media giant knew the problems but chose, for the most part, to ignore them, according to the whistleblower and other anonymous sources.

Friday’s articles refer to a report titled “Carol’s Journey to QAnon.” Carol Smith, a “Conservative mother of North Carolina”, was a fake account created by a researcher, paid by Facebook to study the platform’s role in user polarization. According to this researcher, from the summer of 2019, Carol Smith was exposed by the algorithm of the social network to a “Torrent of extreme, conspiratorial and shocking content”, including groups from the QAnon movement.

The responsibility for the insurgency lies with those who broke the law and those who incited them to do so. “

Guy Rosen, Vice-President of the Civic Integrity Group

Faced with this new wave of criticism, Facebook issued a statement recalling its significant investments to clean up its platforms and support the democratic process. “But the responsibility for the insurgency lies with those who broke the law and those who incited them to do so”, declares Guy Rosen, a vice-president of the civic integrity group. This defense has little chance of satisfying elected officials who have come together against the social network. Especially since the flood of revelations does not stop: a consortium of ten press organizations, from CNN to World, is preparing to publish articles based on these documents, according to the specialized site The Information.

And a new whistleblower has emerged, according to an article in the Washington post appeared on Friday. A former member of the Civic Integrity Team, he filed a statement with the SEC on October 13, accusing Facebook of putting profits above human issues. In this document, the former employee recounts in particular comments made in 2017, when the company was deciding the best way to manage the controversy related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, via its platform. “It will be a flash in the pan. Elected officials will moan. And within a few weeks, they will have moved on. In the meantime we print money in the basement and everything is fine ”, would then have said Tucker Bounds, a member of the communication team of Facebook.

According to the Washington post, the second whistleblower assures in his testimony that Facebook managers regularly undermined efforts to fight disinformation and hate speech for fear of angering Donald Trump and his allies, and so as not to risk losing the attention of users, essential to its voluminous profits.

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