Facebook has the power to bring forth the best in us, but does it stand true even today?
The recent declarations have made me believe that Facebook's products not just hurt children but incite conflict, and undermine our democracy. The company's leadership understands how to make Facebook and Instagram saviours, but they refuse to make the required adjustments because they prioritize their enormous profits over people. We can have social media that links us without destroying our democracy, a portion of democracy that puts children at risk and sows ethnic conflict all over the world. We are capable of doing better.
Facebook continually has internal moral clashes between its profitability and our safety. But it has more often than not decided in its favour- to maximize revenues. As a result, there is more division, hurt, falsehoods, threats, and more fighting. In other situations, this hazardous internet discussion has resulted in actual violence that damages and even kill individuals. This isn't just a case of certain social media users being furious or unstable, or of one side becoming radicalized against the other. It is about Facebook's decision to grow at whatever cost, creating a nearly trillion-dollar business by purchasing its profits with our safety.
The heartbreaking truth about Facebook was made privy to us by the whistleblower Frances Haugen who came out at great personal risk because she believes that every human deserves the dignity of truth. The truth is the company purposefully conceals important information from the public and governments across the world. Facebook has frequently deceived the public about what its own research says regarding children's safety and the effectiveness of its artificial intelligence technologies, as well as its involvement in disseminating divisive and extremist views.
The gravity of the situation necessitates a departure from past regulatory frameworks. Facebook wants us to believe that privacy safeguards or modifications to Section 230 would suffice. While these are essential, they will not address the root of the problem. The point is that no one understands Facebook's serious harm except Facebook. We cannot afford anything less than complete transparency. It is unaccountable as long as it operates in the shadows, shielding its research from public scrutiny. It will not change until the incentives shift. If left alone, Facebook will continue to make decisions that are contrary to the common good, OUR COMMON GOOD.
When governments discovered that big tobacco was concealing the harms it caused, they took action; when we discovered that automobiles were safer with safety belts, they took action. It's time to do the same. Today, the information we see on Facebook influences our perspective of the world. Even people who do not use Facebook are impacted by the majority who do. A corporation with such terrifying control over so many people's deepest ideas, feelings, and actions requires genuine oversight, but Facebook's closed design permits none.
Today, no regulator has a menu of ideas for how to remedy Facebook since Facebook did not want them to know enough about what was creating the problems; if they did, a whistle-blower would not have been necessary today. How are we supposed to assess if Facebook is resolving conflicts keeping public interest in mind if the public has no visibility into how it operates. This has to change.
Facebook wants us to believe that the issues we're discussing are insurmountable. They want us to believe in false options, that we must pick between a Facebook full of divisive and extremist content and losing one of the most essential ideas upon which democratic countries were founded -freedom of speech. That to share private joyous moments with close ones, you must simultaneously be bombarded by rage-fuelled virality. They want you to assume that this is all part of the package.
Activists, scientists, and even whistle-blowers want us to know that's not the case. These issues are solvable. A more secure, free-speech-respecting, and fulfilling social media is conceivable, but the one thing we should take away from these admissions is that while Facebook can improve, it is not going to do so on its own. Without action, the divisive and extreme actions that we are witnessing now are simply the beginning. What we witnessed in Myanmar and are now seeing in Ethiopia are simply the first chapters of a horrific narrative that no one wants to read. People can modify the regulations that Facebook operates under and hence prevent the numerous injustices that it is presently inflicting. We do realize Facebook's catastrophic power but I'm writing this because I feel we still have time to act, but we need to act now.