Facebook didn’t prioritise ethics. It prioritised growth. Now it’s huge. And unethical. Surprised Much?
Bird Lovegod, journalist and co founder of EthicalMuch, shares his opinion. You’re welcome Mark.
Facebook is continuously in the news for the impact it has on societies and cultures. At the time of writing they have just “removed 18 accounts and 52 pages associated with the Myanmar military, including the page of its commander-in-chief, after a UN report accused the armed forces of genocide and war crimes.” Guardian. Just another in a long line of instances where the social media platform has been used to spread hate and disinformation. Although 18 accounts seems rather a small number. Perhaps a days work for one person, to check those, and make a decision. Shame they left it for a year whilst genocide was promoted on their platform.
One of Facebooks problems is they went all out for growth, algorithmically driven, at the expense of everything else. They had minimum controls over who and what could be posted and how the platform could be used. They mopped up after themselves when legally required, but never really focussed on quality. Then the scale of their neglect became apparent. And the scale of their negligence is vast. More than 583 MILLION fake accounts were deleted just in the first three months of 2018.
It’s almost as if they suddenly realised they had let the situation get out of control. Is it too late to fix? Possibly. The business of creating fake accounts for whatever scams and political interference they are used for has been allowed to grow into a massive industry. 583 million fake accounts taken down in three months. Who created them? Why? There must be huge resources behind those, and it now becomes a game of ‘whack a mole’, for one taken down how many more are created? The bulk of these accounts aren’t built manually, for sure, they must be done by bots. In September 2017 it was reported that Facebook estimated 1.2% of accounts were ‘undesirable’. Six months later they deleted nearly twenty times that many for being fake. It’s almost as if they themselves didn’t know the magnitude of the problem, at least officially. An infiltration of their system to the massive scale of 25% of their accounts being fraudulent? Can you imagine a high street where 1 in 4 shops was a scam? Surely this destroys Facebooks credibility as a place where anything can be trusted?
Ethics in business, especially in the medias, impacts everything else. Facebook is algorithm driven, profit motivated, and now seems to have real problems with humanising itself. It’s grown too big to be retrospectively cleaned, and it’s allowed itself to become an exploited tool in political power plays. A situation that would have been much easier to prevent than it will ever be to fix.
Another attitude that’s killing Facebook is one of not taking responsibility. They denied even being a media platform for most of the last ten years. Their position was they were just a tech platform, quietly providing a service, and had no responsibility for the content. Absolving themselves of responsibility for everything and anything. How can it ever be ethical, when it is essentially a software devised to maximise revenue and profit, whilst taking no responsibility for how it is used? Hardly surprising it’s been hugely and expertly exploited by ill-intentioned systems and individuals. It set dubious short term priorities, entirely for its own short term benefit, and scaled them as hard and as fast as possible. Now it’s running around trying to fix the mess they caused for themselves and everyone else. A mess which includes political manipulation of the masses and murderous humanitarian disasters. It couldn’t be much worse. Facebook is a clear lesson in short term thinking and long term consequences. Facebook is global warming. Facebook is plastic pollution. It’s population overload and boom and bust finance. Facebook is what it made itself to be. All of us. Including our weaknesses, greed, and foolishness. Now what have we learned from that?
Image by Marc Schafer Unsplash