What the Wall Street Journal was wrong

There has been a lot of talk about Facebook this week. A series of articles published by the the Wall Street newspaper focused on some of the most difficult issues we face as a business – from moderation of vaccine content and misinformation to algorithmic delivery and adolescent welfare. These are serious and complex issues, and it is only fair that we are held accountable for how we deal with them. But these stories contain deliberately mistaken interpretations of what we’re trying to do and have conferred patently false motives on Facebook executives and employees.

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). This is a claim that can only be made by selecting selective quotes from individual pieces of material disclosed in a way that presents complex and nuanced issues as if there is only one correct answer. .

With any research, there will be ideas for improvement that are effective to pursue and ideas where the tradeoffs against other important considerations are worse than the proposed fix. Just because not all ideas a researcher brings up take action doesn’t mean that Facebook teams aren’t continually considering a range of different improvements. At the same time, none of these issues can be solved by tech companies alone, which is why we work closely with researchers, regulators, policy makers and others.

But none of this collaborative work is helped by taking a deliberately lopsided view of the larger facts. For example, to suggest that disinformation has somehow overwhelmed our COVID-19 vaccine response ignores the most important fact: This vaccine hesitancy among U.S. Facebook users has declined by about 50% since January. The Newspaper The article goes on to discuss at length how pro-vaccine posts are undermined by negative comments, once again burying a crucial point: that healthcare organizations continue to post because their own metrics show how their posts on. our platforms effectively promote vaccines, despite negative reviews.

Likewise, to suggest that the research community is established in its take on the intersection between social media and wellness is simply not the case. The truth is, research into the impact of social media on people is still relatively nascent and evolving, and social media itself is evolving rapidly. Some researchers argue that we need more evidence to understand the impact of social media on people. Every study has limitations and caveats, so no study will be conclusive. We must build on an ever-growing body of multi-method research and expert contributions.

What would be really worrying is if Facebook didn’t do this kind of research in the first place. 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 issues for which there are no easy answers – despite the desire to narrow them down to a catchy newspaper headline.

Facebook understands the important responsibility that comes with operating a global platform. We take it seriously and we do not hesitate to examine and criticize it. But we fundamentally reject this distortion of our work and the questioning of the motivations of the company. I wish there were easy answers to these problems and that the choices we might make were not accompanied by difficult compromises. This is not the world we live in. We will continue to invest in research into these serious and complex issues. We will continue to ask the tough questions. And we will continue to improve our products and services accordingly.


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