From Hate Speech To Fake News: The Facebook Content Crisis Facing Mark Zuckerberg : NPR

Another good long read on social media, particularly Facebook, and its need to face up to ethical issues:

Some in Silicon Valley dismiss the criticisms against Facebook as schadenfreude: Just like taxi drivers don’t like Uber, legacy media envies the success of the social platform and enjoys seeing its leadership on the hot seat.

A former employee is not so dismissive and says there is a cultural problem, a stubborn blindness at Facebook and other leading Internet companies like Twitter. The source says: “The hardest problems these companies face aren’t technological. They are ethical, and there’s not as much rigor in how it’s done.”

At a values level, some experts point out, Facebook has to decide if its solution is free speech (the more people post, the more the truth rises), or clear restrictions.

And technically, there’s no shortage of ideas about how to fix the process.

A former employee says speech is so complex, you can’t expect Facebook to arrive at the same decision each and every time; but you can expect a company that consistently ranks among the 10 most valuable on earth, by market cap, to put more thought and resources into its censorship machine.

The source argues Facebook could afford to make content management regional — have decisions come from the same country in which a post occurs.

Speech norms are highly regional. When Facebook first opened its offices in Hyderabad, India, a former employee says, the guidance the reviewers got was to remove sexual content. In a test run, they ended up removing French kissing. Senior management was blown away. The Indian reviewers were doing something Facebook did not expect, but which makes perfect sense for local norms.

Harvard business professor Ben Edelman says Facebook could invest engineering resources into categorizing the posts. “It makes no sense at all,” he says, that when a piece of content is flagged, it goes into one long line. The company could have the algorithm track what flagged content is getting the most circulation and move that up in the queue, he suggests.

Zuckerberg finds himself at the helm of a company that started as a tech company — run by algorithms, free of human judgment, the mythology went. And now he’s just so clearly the CEO of a media company — replete with highly complex rules (What is hate speech anyway?); with double standards (If it’s “news” it stays, if it’s a rant it goes); and with an enforcement mechanism that is set up to fail.

Source: From Hate Speech To Fake News: The Facebook Content Crisis Facing Mark Zuckerberg : All Tech Considered : NPR

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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