Facebook: Difficult find out in the political game and public opinion turmoil

US social networking giant “Facebook” (Facebook) is facing a serious crisis.

On February 12, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared on the cover page of the Wired March issue of the US technology magazine. But unlike the usual “sunshine boy” image in the media, Zuckerberg on Wired’s cover is bandaged, his lips cracking and bloody. After interviewing 51 Facebook employees and former employees, Wired published a long story that opened the face of turmoil in Facebook companies over the past two years.

On the same day, multinational giant Unilever said that if Facebook and Google were unable to clear the content of “creating social fragmentation, promoting anger and hatred,” they would remove the ads from these websites. In January, media mogul Murdoch also criticized Facebook for using “unreliable algorithms” to indulge in false news. Fake news that has been criticized on Facebook since the U.S. election in 2016 has also brought it into the field of investigation of “enabling Russia.”

As the politics and society of the United States get divided and the media suffers from the “post-truth” challenge, Facebook, as the social platform and news channel through which a large number of Americans rely, is having to return from idealism to reality and face difficulties in political games and public opinions Find a way out.

From social networks to news platforms

Once upon a time, Facebook was not an important source on which many Americans relied for news. As originated in Harvard University, and gradually extended to other elite schools in the United States, and then to the country and even a social networking products around the world. Facebook’s big move is that it changes the habit of people not sharing personal information online, and then provides that information to advertisers, making it one of the most important media of the 21st century.

In 2012, in a contest with Twitter, its main rival for news, Twitter copied a lot about Twitter, adjusting its homepage flow, adding news content, adjusting page design, and clearly displaying the headlines of news stories The author, also sent someone to tell reporters how to use Facebook to better win readers.

By the end of 2013, news hits on Facebook had doubled, while tweets started to decline. By 2015, Facebook has overtaken Google as the premier site for draining the news media. In the same year, Facebook launched an “instant article,” allowing the media to publish news directly on Facebook. This can speed up the opening and improve visual effects, but the media needs to give up some of its autonomy. Most of the traditional media industry, which has been in the doldrums of social media over the years, mostly agreed.

However, Facebook does not seem fully aware of what news influence means. Facebook management values ​​quality and accuracy, sets rules to clear pornography, protects copyrights but does not hire as many journalists and does not spend much time discussing professional topics of concern to the media industry: What is fair news? What can be counted as facts? How to distinguish news, analysis, satire and comment?

Facebook regards itself as an open and neutral platform, and the United States provided support in the 1996 Communications Code Act to protect web-based platforms from being responsible for content posted by users.

As a result, Facebook has never prejudiced the information released by the media. Any news will appear in the same way in the falls, whether it is the Washington Post’s investigation report, the New York Post gossip, Fake news posted by a fake newspaper account. On the one hand, people can easily get the message from all over the world, and on the other hand, it has hidden dangers for fake news.

In the general election into a party dispute

Political divisions in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have drawn Facebook into an unprecedented political controversy.

In February 2016, Facebook’s early investor Roger McNamee discovered a curious phenomenon: there have been some political opinions in the Facebook group that supports left-wing Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders Expression Packs, but apparently not for Sanders supporters, more like an organized move. This makes Mac Nami feel a bit suspicious.

Also in early 2016, Facebook’s security team found that more and more users from Russia are trying to steal journalists and public figures. Facebook reported the findings to the FBI, but received no response afterwards.

At the same time, Facebook is also accused of favoring liberals and prejudicing conservatives. Gizmodo’s Michael Nužez, a technology Web site, revealed that some employees of Facebook’s “hot topics” team are trying hard to increase the exposure of liberal news and boycott conservative news. The story was quickly relayed by popular right-wing media such as Bret Bud News and Draghi, as well as a protest from Republican senators.

Faced with the crisis, Facebook sent people to Washington for negotiation and invited 17 prominent Republicans to visit Facebook headquarters. Zuckerberg repeatedly stressed to them that Facebook is an “open platform.” In June, Facebook adjusted its algorithm while remaining cautious about any actions that may be considered discriminatory.

In the summer of 2016, with the conclusion of the bipartisan primaries, Hillary Clinton and the Trump camp started to use Facebook to launch voter offensives. However, the Trump camp seems to be superior and upload voter information to Facebook. Similar Audience “feature analyzes features of Trump’s existing supporters and sends canter tickets to other potential backers.

More fake news appeared on Facebook in favor of Trump, such as allegations that Hillary secretly sold arms to the “Islamic State” extremist group, or that FBI agents who might leak Hillary mail were found dead and so on. By the end of the campaign season, the hottest fake news on Facebook had more clicks, comments and sharing than the hottest news. These fake news stories are believed to have had a certain impact on the outcome of the election.

Report analysis, this phenomenon may have a variety of reasons. After being criticized as being conservative, Facebook management may not dare to do anything that may be considered politically inclined. Facebook requires advertising revenue, while fake news with high traffic can attract traffic. Employee bonuses are largely based on Facebook’s revenue growth, so they may be reluctant to go it alone. In addition, being restricted by the Communications Code Act, Facebook may be more troublesome if it starts to eradicate fake news.

Involved in “pass Russian door”, many former executives choke

Mr Trump’s election is beyond the expectations of many employees at Facebook. Two days after the election, Zuckerberg rejected the challenge by saying that the so-called fake news on Facebook affected the election results and was “quite a crazy idea.”

Facebook prepares a piece of data saying fake news is only a small part of the content on Facebook. However, the data focus only on the share of fake news on the entire Facebook page and do not measure the actual impact of these fake news and how they affect particular groups.

A week later, Zuckerberg issued a document saying that Facebook took the issue of fake news seriously and put forward a seven-point plan. At a meeting in Peru, he met with U.S. President Barack Obama to assure him that Facebook is seriously addressing this issue. At the same time, Facebook set up a “Working Group on Authenticity of Information Flows” to meet and discuss daily. Soon after, Facebook began introducing news verification and hired a former host of CNN to run the Facebook News Project.

In the eyes of Renée DiResta, a cyber-security expert, the issue of fake news on Facebook is not as straightforward as the lack of verification. She writes that social media “allows malicious people to work on a platform-scale scale because social media is designed for high-speed information flow and viral transmission.” That is, robotic programs can cheaply “create a massive grassroots action phantom”.

In the meantime, Facebook’s fake news crisis is also escalating. Six months after the election ended, Facebook began to realize that it was involved in the issue of national security. Earlier, Facebook had noticed the attacks by Russian hackers in the early stages of the election but did not attract much attention. In 2017, the Facebook security team conducted an investigation as US intelligence accused Russia of using social media to influence the U.S. presidential election.

In the end, Facebook found a group of accounts funded by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian group that was used to “manipulate domestic political opinion in the United States.” Among them was a public homepage called “Heart of Texas” , Which publishes mainly to advocate the independence of Texas. The “Black activist” homepage is pushing news of the police violence against African-Americans, with even more fans than the official Black Certified page.

Eventually, in September 2017, Facebook issued a document announcing that Russia put around 3,000 advertisements trying to influence U.S. politics before and after the election to pay Facebook for $ 100,000.

However, the impact of these content may be more than that. Jonathan Albright, a cybersecurity expert, found these Facebook-turned-off accounts when he signed in to CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform. He said data on six of the accounts was also retained, with their respective 500 most recent articles being forwarded more than 340 million times.

In November, after face counsel attended the U.S. Senate hearing, a number of former top Facebookers openly criticized the company. Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, said he regretted having pushed his Facebook to the public because “God knows how much impact it is having on the children’s brains.” Eleven days later, a former Facebook privacy executive Sandy Parakilas wrote in The New York Times calling for government regulation of Facebook.
Attitudes toward the news media from “cold” to “hot”

On the other hand, although Facebook has in fact become the main news platform in the United States, it has always been in disagreement with the mainstream news media. The news media believes that Facebook and Google account for three-fourths of the electronic advertising business, leaving the media competing for the rest of the advertising business. The media also believes that Facebook’s algorithm has contributed to the spread of “vulgar news,” such as The New York Times, which has long had to compete with Web media Buzzfeed on Facebook, and Buzzfeed now has to deal with an increasing number of “title parties” competition.

In addition, the media is dissatisfied with the enormous power of Facebook. Facebook’s market value is likely to exceed 200 times the New York Times, so journalists are always at a disadvantage and Facebook can hurt a single media, manipulate traffic, ads and readership at any time.

At the same time, Facebook employees are reluctant to listen to media people who do not understand the algorithm to preach that the success of Facebook benefits from its product advantages. News is only 5% of the global content of Facebook, so Facebook can give up news services at any time. Meanwhile, people who know Zuckerberg think the head of Facebook is not interested in the current issue of the journalism, preferring to think about problems five to 20 years later, and the editors of the media are usually working for the next quarter worry.

In 2016, media tycoon Murdoch said to Zuckerberg that he has long been dissatisfied with Facebook and Google, believing they monopolize almost the entire electronic advertising market, threatening serious news coverage. Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp., Murdoch and News Corp., accused Facebook of arbitrarily altering algorithms and arbitrarily destroying media without consulting media partners. Both men even directly threatened that if Facebook did not act, Murdoch and News Corp would more openly criticize Facebook, and lobbied the government to take unfavorable actions against Facebook.

Currently, Facebook is trying to make changes. Zuckerberg said in November last year that Facebook will make more investments in security and would rather make less money and “protect our community.” Also last fall, Facebook announced that the media would be able to ask users to subscribe “instant articles” for a fee. Zuckerberg also tried to extend his olive branch to Murdoch, who, when eating with senior News Corp. officials last year, dedicated himself to Murdoch, saying he read his biography and admired it.

Earlier this year, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will start pushing “trusted, informative, local” specific media outlets. This year, Facebook may make more similar adjustments. At the moment, it is already trying to get the media to better control the “paywall,” allowing them to showcase their brand identity more prominently. Although Facebook has always insisted that it is only a social platform, it is gradually recognizing its responsibility as a media publisher: care about readers and the truth.