Through her leaks and Congressional testimony, Frances Haugen, the “Facebook Whistleblower,” revealed a lot about Facebook’s operation. Many of these revelations are things we’ve long suspected but now have proof of: Facebook focuses on growth—of users and time spent on its platforms—to the exclusion of everything else. For Facebook, growth trumps all, even the health and safety of its most vulnerable users.
In her testimony, Haugen explained that at Facebook, metrics are king. Facebook’s “growth division” works to increase “user engagement,” and it succeeds. This is a circular process: Facebook identifies content that users “engage” with and promotes it, leading to more engagement. Facebook’s automated systems don’t evaluate what is being engaged with – they just identify and rank materials by engagement itself. So, according to Haugen, the automated scoring system will rank successful bullying as “engaging” alongside anything else that garners a lot of attention. Politicians who make extreme statements get more engagement, and are therefore ranked higher by Facebook, and are therefore seen by
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