Facebook: Ripples of Confusion, Denial, and Revisionism

March 18, 2019

Facebook contributed to an interesting headline about the video upload issue related to the bad actor in New Zealand. Here’s the headline I noted as it appeared on Techmeme’s Web page:

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The Reuters’ story ran a different headline:

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What caught my attention is the statement “blocked at upload.” If a video were blocked at upload, were those videos removed? If blocked, then the number of videos drops to 300 million.

This type of information is typical of the coverage of Facebook, a company which is become the embodiment of social media.

There were two other interesting Facebook stories in my news feed this morning.

The first concerns a high profile Silicon Valley investor, Marc Andreessen. The write up reports and updates a story whose main point is:

Facebook Board Member May Have Met Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower in 2016.

The timeline is important because, as I recall, the senior executives at Facebook were not aware of what was happening at Cambridge Analytica. Furthermore, the allegation is that Andreessen met with an individual who played a pivotal role in the use of Facebook user data. The update reports:

Marc Andreessen has denied the claim in a statement to Engadget, calling it “flatly and totally untrue.” He said a colleague suggested meeting with Wylie, but that the get-together never took place.

The timing is interesting, and the denial is fascinating. Where did the original information come from? The origin may have been the Guardian newspaper. The information about Facebook is variable. The Guardian’s headline captures the spirit of the social media giant’s approach to a sticky wicket:

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To add some spice to the corned beef hash, I noted this New York Times’ story:

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The main point of the story is to make clear that Dr. Aleksandr Kogan has been incorrectly characterized by Facebook. The newspaper quoted Steve Cohen, a lawyer for Kogan as saying:

Alex did not lie, Alex was not a fraud, Alex did not deceive them, this was not a scam.Facebook knew exactly what this app was doing, or should have known. Facebook desperately needed a scapegoat, and Alex was their scapegoat.

From my point of view, the phrase “reality distortion field” seems a reasonable way to describe some of these reports.

Uploaded or blocked. Big difference.

Met or did not meet. A basic “he said, she said.”

A professor explaining what Facebook knew.

In short, the miasma surrounding Facebook is a feature of the company, not a bug.

Stephen E Arnold, March 18, 2019

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