Fb: is that this its Massive Tobacco second?

“It’s been a whole week,” wrote Mark Zuckerberg. And that’s an understatement, said the FT. Last Monday, Facebook suffered one of the worst outages of all time. The next day, a former employee of his “Civil Integrity Unit” delivered an explosive testimony to Congress about how profits are put above the safety of its users. Frances Haugen had already leaked a lot of internal documents to the press, so much of what she said was known, said Aaron Mak on Slate. Even so, the senators were clearly stunned by their claim that Facebook’s own research concluded that its Instagram app was harmful to teenagers at risk. This allowed her to make her broader point of view that Facebook’s financial incentives are at odds with the best interests of its users. The longer people stay on the platform, the more money it can make from advertising, she explained. Hence, its algorithms are designed to promote the content that leads to the most interactions based on likes, comments, and shares. And this is the content that evokes strong reactions – such as anger and fear.

A devastating picture is coming into focus, said Ahmed Baba in The Independent: Facebook knows its products are destructive, but it doesn’t do anything to fix them. For example, it claims to work hard to fight hate speech, but Haugen created a memo where executives acknowledge that only 3 to 5% of cases are tackled against hate. Similarly, it boasts of taking disinformation seriously, but 87% of the money it spends fighting it goes into English content – that’s only 9% of the total. It makes little effort to prevent the spread of “fake news” in Sudan or Myanmar, for example.

At last week’s hearing, a senator warned that Big Tech is about to have its Big Tobacco moment, The Economist said. But investors are still buying Facebook shares – and while politicians talk about containment and liquidation, it’s not clear how this could happen: with TikTok out there, it’s hard to argue it’s a monopoly. Nevertheless, the reputational damage is getting “out of hand” – and more: Facebook has been abandoned by the youth in such a way that its user base in the USA could shrink by 45% within two years, says Haugen, which would be a severe blow to its advertising income . Facebook is in trouble, Kevin Roose told the New York Times. That’s why shocking ideas are being discussed to attract pre-teens, such as a social media app for “play dates”. Facebook is still powerful; and it has yet to be regulated. But we shouldn’t confuse his “desperate thrashing” with a show of strength.

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