Facebook: Now Expectations for Responsibility Are Rising

March 14, 2018

Recently, British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke out against the vengeful and often dangerous way in which social media has been utilized. According to one account she stood up for women and minorities and other groups being disenfranchised online. Good, right? Apparently, it was a little too late, as a fiery Guardian piece told us in, “Theresa May Thinks Facebook Will Police Itself? Some hope.”

In typical British journalistic tradition, the piece heavily criticizes the PM’s statement:

“This is typical Mayspeak: it mimes determination but is devoid of substance. It’s like hoping that the alcohol industry will help to stamp out binge drinking or that food manufacturers will desist from encouraging childhood obesity. Neither industry will comply for the simple reason that their continued prosperity depends on people drinking more alcohol and consuming more sugar and fat.”

While a politician saying that they trust Facebook and social media to police themselves is laughable no matter what country you live in, it raises an interesting question. Wired recently took up the same topic with an interesting spin. While its author acknowledges Facebook’s attempts at correcting its mistakes and being a safer platform for users, it points out that there’s a really simple way to handle this: more transparency. Social media giants are may find themselves forced to shift from “utility” mode to “responsible publisher” mode. When this occurs, the algorithms which help generate revenue may be found to have an unacceptable social downside.

Patrick Roland, March 14, 2018


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