What exactly is Facebook trying to hide? There are just so many options to choose from.
Perhaps it's the new whistleblower claims that dropped Friday, alleging that Facebook constantly chooses growth and profits by ignoring hate speech and widespread misinformation. How about the claims that the company knowingly created a toxic environment for teen girls, leading to significant mental health problems and body image issues for one in three users?
Maybe Facebook is feeling spooked over the testimony of former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen, the first whistleblower who unveiled the company's lax policies around security safeguards immediately following the 2020 election — which allowed the undemocratic lunacy that inspired a riot and the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to fester.
It would be naive to expect Facebook's reaction to this reporting to be one of regret, but it's still revealing that its response to multiple whistleblower revelations was to deflect and attack.
Last week, the Facebook Newsroom posted a series of tweets questioning a wave of upcoming stories being pursued by "30+ journalists ... finishing up a coordinated series of articles based on thousands of pages of leaked documents."
As these tweets were being sent, The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board was in contact with Facebook about a meeting, at Facebook's request — and, as company officials were clearly hoping, at their whim.
Our editorial board interviews policymakers, public officials, corporate executives, and thought leaders on the record and uses the interviews to develop official editorial positions. However, Facebook's representatives insisted that no one they would make available could be quoted about their "perspective on the legal and regulatory issues involving Facebook and the tech industry." We told Facebook we weren't interested.
They profess to want internet regulation, but it's no secret that Facebook money pours into D.C. politics. Last year, Facebook spent nearly $20 million on its lobbying efforts in Congress, the most of any tech giant. Does anyone really believe they'll willingly allow themselves to be regulated in a way that they cannot manipulate?
Facebook officials say they "expect the press to hold us accountable, given our scale and role in the world," yet they cry foul and push back against data-driven journalism and important questions — questions that many of their 2.9 billion users would like to see answered.
"As long as Facebook is operating in the dark, it is accountable to no one," said Haugen when testifying before Congress. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., compared Facebook to Big Tobacco in that it targets kids and young adults with products it knows are harmful.
Thanks to Haugen, the revelations about how Facebook platforms can spread misinformation and undermine democracy keep coming. Among the latest is how the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S Capitol was fed by "Stop the Steal" zealots who used Facebook's platforms to organize those who believed the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.
"Because we were looking at each entity individually, rather than as a cohesive movement, we were only able to take down individual Groups and Pages once they exceeded a violation threshold," according to a Facebook postmortem on its Jan. 6 response reviewed by CNN. "This approach did eventually change, according to the analysis — after it was too late," wrote CNN.
These internal Facebook documents contradict what Facebook executives said when questioned by journalists in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Consequently, the tech giant is directly responsible for the public scorn it has earned. The damage its products and methods have directly or indirectly caused in our country is undeniable. Yet every day, Facebook inspires more hard questions it continues to duck. The company clearly can't be trusted.
This American Opinion editorial is the opinion of the editorial board of The Sacramento Bee.
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