The Media Today

The media today: Zuckerberg addresses Facebook’s failures

September 22, 2017

Facing growing criticism for his company’s failure to address Russian interference in the US election, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivered a nine-point plan to deal with those wishing to influence the democratic process. The announcement is full of newsy headlines, chief among them that the company will turn over to Congressional committees the more than 3,000 ads purchased by a Kremlin-connected agency.

Zuckerberg also promised “to make political advertising more transparent” by allowing users to see who paid for political ads and to visit advertisers’ pages to view all of the content that account is running. How Facebook will determine what constitutes a “political” ad is still unclear.

Even as he promised greater transparency from the tech giant, Zuckerberg acknowledged that he has no perfect solution. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you we’re going to catch all bad content in our system,” he wrote in a corresponding post on his page. ”Freedom means you don’t have to ask permission first,” Facebook’s scale—it boasts more than two billion users—means that human moderation of all content is impossible, and an algorithm can always be gamed.

ICYMI: The problem with local TV isn’t that the product is partisan or under-resourced or “fake.” The problem is that it’s lame.

One unavoidable takeaway from Zuckerberg’s statement was the incredible power that his company possesses. What other CEO can claim, with a straight face, the power to “proactively…strengthen the democratic process”? A sentence like, “We have been working to ensure the integrity of the German elections this weekend,” meant to be reassuring, comes off as shocking.

Facebook’s serious attention to its political influence is a welcome acknowledgement that the utopian ideals of its creation have been dashed by the actions of those who would use its platform to pursue their own interests. Trust, however, has already been squandered by a delayed acknowledgement of the issue. Last week, this newsletter looked at the reasons Facebook was facing political heat, and why it is so hard to trust the tech giant.

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Below, more on Facebook’s brave new world.


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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.