The Facebook whistleblower

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Last night I watched the 60 Minutes Facebook whistleblower interview and chilled. If you prefer to read this story has pretty much the same info.

Funnily enough, my date shares a Burning Man camp with Frances Haugen. Nothing but good things to say about her.

What irritated me about the interview was that it didn’t go into specifics. We’ve long known that Facebook has long known it helps foment racial violence, spread misinformation, and exacerbate polarization. At the same time, if you’re a red-state viewer, when you hear 60 Minutes say something is racial violence, misinformation, or polarization you might read that to mean things you actually approve of.

In reality, Facebook knows it hosts and spreads bad things. Maybe you’re fine with effectively discouraging people from getting vaccinated. But you probably don’t like revenge porn and CSAM, which Facebook is by all objective measures a much bigger source of than Pornhub or any other adult site. Or perhaps you’re fine with groups where cops share explicitly white supremacist memes. But you don’t like encouraging genocide.

The genocide thing did come up. But the rest of the specifics were left out, except for Facebook’s role in helping organize the Jan 6th insurrection.

What Haugen proved is that Facebook leadership and rank and file know Facebook is causing harm and Mark Zuckerberg is choosing to harm people because doing much to stop it would cut into their profits.

Haugen is calling for regulation, which I’m skeptical about. I don’t see a reality in which new regulations don’t end up further entrenching Facebook. Facebook lobbyists will work with congressional staffers who want to become industry lobbyists to write regulations that competitors have a harder time complying with than Facebook. And their tentacles in regulatory agencies and lobbying dollars ensure that enforcement won’t be fair.

Evan Greer’s suggestion to outlaw targeted advertising doesn’t sit right mostly because of my libertarian leanings. However, it strikes at the root of the algorithm problem in a way that at least seems fair. My rational doubts are around implementation.

Ultimately it would be cool if Facebook were run by someone who isn’t a sociopath. It just doesn’t make sense to me to be rich as everloving fuck and still choose to tear the country apart and knowingly get people killed just to make more money. For what? What are you doing with that money that is worth the harm you’re needlessly causing the world? Spend more money on content moderation. Implement a slightly less profitable, but way less harmful algorithm. I don’t have a perfect solution that solves every problem but it would be really, really simple to fuck this up way less if he wanted to.

And what really galls me is the “free expression” nonsense. Knowingly allowing Nazis to use your platform to gain recruits, radicalize vulnerable people, and plan terrorism while you zealously immediately banish every hint of nipple shows you’re perfectly fine with censorship and have all the tools necessary to censor certain speech. You just prefer Nazis to nips. That’s not free expression. That’s taking a stand.