It seems like everyone has been talking about Facebook papers lately. Reports revealing some suspicious practices of Facebook are circulating across the web, and causing an outright debate about the social platform.
With all the reports painting Facebook in a rather negative way, Facebook Papers is pretty damaging. or they? The reports probably don’t actually reveal much about Facebook’s practices after all.
Here, we’ll look at some of the reasons why Facebook Sheets isn’t as damned as it might seem at first glance.
Noticeable: The Facebook Papers was released before Facebook was renamed Meta, so we’ll still refer to the company as Facebook.
What the Facebook papers revealed wasn’t particularly scandalous
Most reports from The Facebook Papers focus on disinformation as the big “revelation” about Facebook. Now, misinformation is definitely a problem on the internet. It can actually be very dangerous. But it’s not particularly scandalous on Facebook.
Think back to the Cambridge Analytica scandal from 2018. There was a huge public outcry toward Facebook, and rightly so. The use of unapproved data to target political ads is gratuitous, and arguably even more scandalous.
The Facebook papers seem to get far more public attention than the Cambridge Analytica scandal. While there are many factors behind this, it seems odd that a relatively less serious problem is exaggerated so much.
Facebook papers are described and viewed as the worst information that can come out of the company. But this is not so. Imagine if the reports contained information that showed Facebook being used by other countries in cyber attacks. It could have been a real revelation.
While not trying to downplay the problem of misinformation on Facebook and the broader internet, it’s not particularly scandalous. It’s less serious than previous Facebook scandals, and it’s a lot less serious than it could have been.
Many documents in Facebook Sheets are just images, not documents
When you’ve been reading about the Facebook papers, it certainly seems as if the reports are leaked documents, as one might expect. But as Gizmodo Recognizing that the majority of “Documents” are just images of reports on a computer screen.
Now that you can see why all reports are based on photos, it is much easier to take a sneaky photo with your phone than to copy files suspiciously to a thumb drive.
But this fact means that we have to give Facebook some benefit to be skeptical. As you can no doubt see, one of the reasons Facebook has dismissed the reports is that it mischaracterized the company by not providing the full context.
There is a lot going on right now, and I just discussed it on our earnings call. I also talked about some…
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg employment Monday 25 October 2021
While at first this may seem like an excuse, Facebook is actually right. With just pictures of selected parts of the documents, no one (outside of Facebook) has ever read the entire documents.
As a result, there is undoubtedly some context missing from the documents in question. As for what this missing context is, we don’t know. But isn’t there a rule for jumping to conclusions?
Many reports in Facebook Sheets can be easily explained
When you read some of the reports about Facebook from The Facebook Papers, you probably think it’s very bad for Facebook. But with so many reports out there, there is much more than meets the eye.
A report claiming that Facebook is worse at monitoring content in countries outside the US has real Facebook reports to prove it, but not why. Explanations from previous informants reveal that this is due to Facebook focusing specifically on the user experience where its commercial tools are located.
While Facebook is spread all over the world, the largest commercial market for Facebook is located in the United States. India may have the largest number of Facebook users, but it is not the main target of Facebook. All companies focus on their target market more than others, and Facebook does the same.
Another report circulating online alleges that Facebook’s internal reports contradict Mark Zuckerberg’s public statements.
The particular example used is a CEO who claims that Facebook removes 94 percent of hate speech it finds before a human reports it, but a leaked report reveals that less than five percent of all hate speech has been removed from the platform.
Let’s read that again. Zuckerberg claims 94% of hate speech he finds before people report it , the report says less than five percent of All the hate speech are removed. Did you understand that? They are talking about two different things!
Removing just five percent of hate speech isn’t good by any measure, but Zuckerberg’s rhetoric and Facebook’s internal reports are not inconsistent.
While these particular reports were chosen to provide an example, many of the Facebook papers could be explained with other whistleblower leaks or this very important missing context.
Facebook did a few things wrong, but the Facebook papers are very poor
The Facebook papers revealed that the company had done some wrong things. For example, creating a test account that leads to QAnon posts and not doing anything about it, or weighting angry reactions versus normal reactions, are major concerns.
But, Facebook Papers paints Facebook in an exclusively negative light when there’s more to the story. Everyone seems to be taking the opportunity to point an accusing finger at the company rather than examining the broader picture. And that’s unfair, even if you’re anti-Facebook.
Facebook Papers curses the company, but it’s certainly not as damned as it seems. Perhaps the old saying should be “Don’t judge a book by hundreds of pages of whistleblowing reports that lack context,” although it’s not nearly as appealing.
The Facebook papers are full of information about Facebook’s inner workings, but where did it come from?
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