Facebook’s Broken Vows
Frenkel and Kang, award-winning journalists for the Times, conducted interviews with more than four hundred people, mostly Facebook employees, past and present, for more than a thousand hours. 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 measurement: the amount of time a user spent on the site. Zuckerberg was particularly obsessed with regular surveys that asked users whether Facebook is "Good for the world". When Facebook implemented such changes as demoting lies in the News Feed, the GFW went up, but the time users spent on Facebook went down. "For almost ten years, Facebook has been on a mission to make the world more open and connected," Zuckerberg wrote in 2013, in a Facebook post called "Is Connectivity a Human Right?" It reads something like a papal encyclical. Frenkel and Kang argue, "As Facebook entered new nations, no one was charged with monitoring the rollouts with an eye toward the complex political and cultural dynamics within those countries. No one was considering how the platform might be abused in a nation like Myanmar, or asking if they had enough content moderators to review the hundreds of new languages in which Facebook users across the planet would be posting." Facebook, inadvertently, inflamed the conflict; its algorithms reward emotion, the more heated the better. Russian hackers set up hundreds of fake Facebook accounts.