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How to Fix Facebook

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is the collection past columns

This is the most important moment in history Facebook… Perhaps an exaggeration, but not much.

Former Facebook product manager Frances Hogen has charmed US Senators. at the hearing on tuesday with a subtle diagnosis that the company needs to be protected from itself – for the good of all of us.

What’s different from Facebook’s 4 million previous scandals and rebuke is that Haugen focused on what she sees as the company’s fundamental flaws in technical design and corporate organization, as well as the messy but sophisticated discussions taking place outside of Facebook with the purpose of improving the company.

Haugen said Facebook has stretched too far to effectively counter harm such as ethnic violence and human trafficking this was due to the activity in his applications. She analyzed how Facebook’s obsession with getting us to spend more time online exacerbated our worst impulses. And she hammered in the message that the public should not remain in the dark about what Facebook knows about its impact on us and our world.

A picture that emerged from recent Wall Street Journal reporting and Haugen Media interviews did not participate on Facebook as a cartoonish James Bond villain. This was a company that has no control over the machines it has built, but refuses to accept this reality.

“Facebook is stuck in a feedback loop they can’t get out of,” Haugen told the Senators.

Some of what Haugen’s and Facebook’s critics have said about the company are likely exaggerated. And much of what Haugen said was not new. But she is a laser-focused messenger at a time when the people in power are ready to end their quarrels and ask: what now? What do you need to do to get the most out of Facebook and minimize the harm?

There are no magic fixes, but Haugen and many others have come up with sensible suggestions on what to try.

Haugen’s most compelling idea was that “engagement rating“- the original sin of Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest and other popular applications. When computers prioritize what we see on the Internet based on what can captivate us and keep us longer, they tend to inflate the most obscene or extreme views and subtly nudge people to post the same thing.

Basically, Haugen suggested turning off computer algorithms and making more and more Internet users gravitate toward designs like iMessage or past versions of Facebook and Instagram that showed messages in chronological order.

Keith Klonik, who researched online expression politics in internet companies, wrote The New York Times says Facebook may redesign its websites to optimize holistic assessments of what it offers. Instead of focusing on metrics like which posts can get a ton of shares or likes, he can look at what might lead you to take part in a protest or charity.

Haugen and other recommended changes to US law to make Facebook accountable for causing real harm, including Act of terrorismas a result of the messages that the company’s computer systems circulated in people’s feeds.

V recent interviewHaugen also mentioned the idea of ​​having members of the public monitor Facebook from the inside out, similar to the Federal Reserve’s inspectors for large banks. She also supported the idea rules to make Facebook work with researchers who want to study the company’s impact on users.

And Haugen suggested that many of Facebook’s worst moments, including its social network used to fuel ethnic violence, may be the result of too few people being unable to control its ambitions. If Facebook is forced to do less, for example, leave the country if the company allocates more resources to them and establishes cultural competence?

There are many reasons for pessimism. Facebook essentially said Congress – “YOU tell us what to do.” However, US lawmakers and regulators have done little to tell Facebook how best to manage the apps used by billions of people.

Facebook saidIt is correct that he strives to continually improve his applications and that this is not an easy exercise in finding trade-offs. Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday rejected The (simplified) notion that his company prefers profit to people’s lives and well-being, and that the company ignores ideas for improvement.

Perhaps no Facebook fix ideas are better than the status quo. But what was fresh from Haugen was a message of hope: we need the best from Facebook, and we need to work together to make it better.

More reading and listening:



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