Facebook denounces Wall Street Journal reports on internal research

Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg officially responded to “Facebook files, a series of The Wall Street Journal based on internal Facebook documents, to say he doesn’t sound impressed would be an understatement.

So far the Newspaper reported on a program that subjected prominent people to different standards than ordinary Facebook users; indications that Facebook is aware of the risks that Instagram poses adolescent users; a change in Facebook’s algorithms that backfired; the company’s struggle to manage dangerous content; and the ways in which anti-vaccines have abused the platform.

“These are serious and complex issues,” Clegg said in a declaration published on Saturday “and it is entirely legitimate that we are held accountable for the way we treat them.” But these stories contain deliberately mistaken interpretations of what we are trying to do and have conferred grossly false motives on Facebook management and employees. “

This is the crux of Clegg’s objection to the Journal of report :

“At the heart of this series is a simply bogus claim: that Facebook conducts research and then systematically and intentionally ignores it if the results are inconvenient for the business. It challenges the motivations and hard work of thousands of researchers, policy experts and engineers at Facebook who strive to improve the quality of our products and understand their wider impact (positive and negative). presents complex and nuanced problems as if there is only one correct answer. “

The Newspaper, for his part, said in the first report for “The Facebook Files” that his investigation was based on “a wide range of internal Facebook communications” as well as “interviews with dozens of current and former employees.” He also indicated that at least some of these documents have been submitted to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Clegg’s response was not limited to accusations of picking. “Facebook understands the important responsibility that comes with operating a global platform,” he said. “We take it seriously and we don’t shy away from scrutiny and criticism. But we fundamentally reject this distortion of our work and challenging the motives of the company.”

Still The New York Times reported that Facebook executives wanted to “selectively disclose its own data in the form of carefully curated reports, rather than giving outsiders the tools to uncover it for themselves,” just a month before the social network released its first “content report widely consulted “, in an alleged attempt to be more transparent on its platform.

This report found that Facebook had mistakenly provided researchers with only half of the data it promised to provide them regarding engagement with political content in the United States. (Information collected in other countries would not have been affected.) The company acknowledged this error and said it will attempt to send the full data in the coming weeks.

Facebook has also been accused of being hostile to outside researchers in recent months, first with New York University’s efforts to examine political ads on the social network, and then with a nonprofit called AlgorithmWatch which said the company had issued a “thinly veiled threat” related to its research into Instagram’s referral algorithms.

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The company initially claimed that its 2019 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, which said in a recent amendment to its antitrust complaint against Facebook that it was “a monopoly that abused its excessive market power to eliminate threats to his domination, ”forced him to interfere with NYU research. But the FTC said that claim was false.

“What would be really worrying is if Facebook didn’t do this kind of research in the first place,” Clegg said today. “The reason we do this is to hold a mirror and ask the tough questions about how people engage with social media on a large scale. These are often complex problems for which there are no easy answers, despite the desire to reduce them to attention – a newspaper headline. “

Few newspapers can now publish catchy headlines: many small publications were closed after losing their ad revenue to Google and Facebook, and larger publications fired countless writers to focus on video content in a move that then backfired in large part because of Facebook inflate advertising statistics for his videos.

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