Facebook Cannot 'Guarantee' That Social Media Is Good For Democracy

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Contrite Facebook executives were already fanning out across Europe this week to address the company's slow response to abuses on its platform, such as hate speech and foreign influence campaigns. "We're working diligently to neutralize these risks now", wrote Samidh Chakrabarti, who leads Facebook's civic engagement team. "I don't have a kid, but I have a nephew that I put some boundaries on", he said, adding, "There are some things that I won't allow; I don't want them on a social network". "The last U.S. presidential campaign changed that, with foreign interference that Facebook should have been quicker to identify to the rise of "fake news" and echo chambers". This comes more than a year after the company's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, said it was "crazy" to think that fake news on Facebook.swayed the 2016 presidential election. The company's overtures continued on Monday when it published an essay series entitled "Hard Questions", which examines the social-media giant's larger impact. "As part of our ongoing quality surveys, we will now ask people whether they're familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source", C.E.O.

After taking into account the role social media plays in politics and elections, Facebook and outside experts arrived at some harsh truths. "The good news is that social media platforms are hardly a finished fact to be categorically assessed", he says. "The idea is that some news organizations are only trusted by their readers or watchers, and others are broadly trusted across society, even by those who don't follow them directly". The social media company turned over all information to special counsel Robert Mueller, that included copies of the ads and the identity of the purchasers.

The good, however, isn't without the bad, Sunstein said.

"Citizens should be exposed to materials that they would not have chosen in advance", Sunstein wrote.

Chakrabarti expressed Facebook's regrets about the 2016 USA elections, when according to the company Russian agents created 80,000 posts that reached around 126 million people over two years.

"This kind of activity goes against everything we stand for".


Chakrabarti went on to address on-platform problems with fake news, echo chambers, political harassment, and unequal participation that must also be addressed in the near future and the current plans to do so.

In all three posts, Facebook remains confident that social media can be good for democracy - if it's run properly. "At its worst, it allows people to spread misinformation and corrode democracy", he writes.

"I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives, but I can't". And he says that companies like Facebook, therefore, have a "moral duty" to understand how their platforms are being used and how they can ensure as much as possible that they are "as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible".

Facebook's global politics and government outreach director Katie Harbath also acknowledged the potential harm the platform could cause when left unchecked.

Sunstein's post largely focuses on echo chambers and how social networks' attempt to personalize a user's feed may inherently set up those "information cocoons" as he calls them.

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