I watched with keen interest the 60 Minutes interview of Frances Haugen this past Sunday. Frances Haugen is an ex Facebook executive “whistleblower” who has come out to criticize Facebook for allegedly knowingly having algorithms in place that foster or facilitate hate speech among Facebook users. She says Facebook executives know that these algorithms play to division but that Facebook values profits over people. I kept watching to hear when I’d get some red meat — and I’m still waiting. I’ve yet to hear anything remotely like a smoking gun. Anything that would place any more blame on Facebook than many other conveyors of division. Do I believe Facebook plays to whatever will keep people posting, reading, using their platform? Yes. But name me one mass media outlet that doesn’t. I’ll wait. Fox News certainly plays the divisive us versus them blame game. And so does CNN and MSNBC. Major newspapers like the Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, and the like, are not going to shut down their respective comment sections because readers of different and contrasting views go at each other. That’s one of the elements that keeps them reading! While one can argue that social media exacerbates division in this country, the raw division we all witness nowadays did not begin and certainly won’t end with Facebook or social media’s demise.
From CBS’ 60 Minutes website: [“Facebook’s harm, Haugen said, also extends to Facebook’s Instagram app. One internal study Haugen referenced in her 60 Minutes interview said 13.5% of teen girls shared that Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse. And 17% of teen girls stated in the study that Instagram makes eating disorders worse. “As these young women begin to consume this eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed,” Frances Haugen said to 60 Minutes. “And it actually makes them use the app more. And so, they end up in this feedback cycle where they hate their bodies more and more.”] Huh? How? What is it about Facebook/ Instagram that would make young impressionable girls consider suicide more or develop an eating disorder? Is it appreciably more than the TV commercials featuring perfect-looking people, or any worse than some of the sick TV program content and series on commercial TV?
Which brings me to my ‘healthy paranoia.” I have been very outspoken against the censorship Facebook and other social media giants have been deploying since the mysterious appearance of COVID-19. And Facebook’s “Community Standards” policy has been all over the place and lacks any semblance of continuity and/or clarity. Despite my criticism of Facebook, I do not agree with any attempt to control the wide-sweeping dialogue that takes place on their platform. And I find it curious and noteworthy that only weeks after the most powerful figure in the world accused Facebook of facilitating the deaths of people because it won’t apply even more censorship of its users that all of a sudden this so-called “whistleblower” surfaces — with suspect and overblown accusations I might add. Facebook, despite its shortcomings, is under intense pressures from all sides of the political spectrum. They are in a can’t win situation and just about everyone is pissed at them. The president to the United States doesn’t think they censor enough while complaints about their censoring heavy-handedness abound. They got politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington champing at the bit to break them up into pieces. And much of it has been self-inflicted. But this appears to be a take-down, conjured-up subterfuge rooted in further control of Facebook’s content. And it don’t pass the smell test! Incidentally, their stock is down as much as six percent today.