Facebook exec blames users for spreading misinformation

Facebook exec blames users for spreading misinformation: Says social media firm doesn’t have enough money or staff to eliminate it

  • Newly-appointed Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth said that people, rather than social media, are to blame for the proliferation of misinformation online
  • The veteran developer, who joined Zuckerberg in 2006 and invented the ‘news feed,’ said the ‘onus should be on the individual’ in ‘any meaningful democracy’
  • He called Facebook a ‘fundamentally democratic technology,’ despite the recent revelation that the platform allowed high-profile users to break its policies
  • Asked whether vaccine hesitancy would be the same with or without social media, he said that individuals choose what sources to trust
  • ‘That’s their choice. They are allowed to do that. You have an issue with those people. You don’t have an issue with Facebook. You can’t put that on me’
  • Bosworth touted that Facebook’s information counter-campaigns to spread authoritative information on COVID and the vaccine
  • ‘I’m uncomfortable… that we possess enough fundamental rightness , even in our most scientific centers of study, to exercise those powers on another human’
  • ‘If we took every single dollar and human that we had, it wouldn’t eliminate people seeing speech that they didn’t like on the platform’

Longtime Facebook developer and newly appointed Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth shirked the blame for harmful content off social media platforms and onto the people that use them, characterizing misinformation as a societal problem. 

‘If we took every single dollar and human that we had, it wouldn’t eliminate people seeing speech that they didn’t like on the platform,’ Bosworth said in an interview with Axios’ Chief Technology Correspondent Ina Fried. 

Fried asked whether Facebook could ‘move faster’ to eliminate the spread of misinformation – and, citing revelations uncovered by ex-employee Frances Haugen via the Facebook Papers, noted that ‘Facebook only addresses things when they get dire.’

Pressed on whether Facebook and other social media outlets are amplifying the spread of misinformation, Bosworth characterized it as a demand problem. 

‘People want that information,’ Bosworth said. ‘I don’t believe that the answer is ‘I will deny these people the information they seek and I will enforce my will upon them.’   

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Longtime Facebook developer and newly appointed Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth (left) shirked the blame for harmful content off social media platforms and onto the people that use them, characterizing misinformation as a societal problem

Andrew Bosworth [(eft) whether he could ‘do more’ to stem the flow of misinformation on the platform when he steps in as the Chief Technology Officer of Meta next year. Bosworth has been working with Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg (right) since 2006, and conceived of Facebook’s scrolling ‘news feed’ design, now used by the platform and its affiliates like Instagram

https://youtube.com/watch?v=F-h97B_Y4ZM

She asked Bosworth whether he could ‘do more’ to stem the flow of misinformation on the platform when he steps in as the Chief Technology Officer of Meta next year.  Bosworth has been working with Facebook since 2006, and conceived of Facebook’s scrolling ‘news feed’ design, now used by the platform and its affiliates like Instagram.

‘It wouldn’t eliminate every opportunity that somebody had to use the platform maliciously.’

Although Bosworth acknowledged that ‘the speech of people can be dangerous,’ he maintained that ‘individual humans are the ones who choose to believe or not believe a thing’ – and the ones that choose to ‘share or not share a thing,’ too.

‘At some point the onus is, and should be in any meaningful democracy, on the individual.’  

He characterized Facebook as a ‘fundamentally democratic’ technology, despite revelations in October that the company used its ‘XCheck’ program to allow celebrities, politicians and high-profile users bypass its rules of conduct when they posted on its platforms. 

Misinformation on Facebook is thought to have played a role in the January 6 riots on the Capitol, during which disenfranchised Donald Trump supporters rampaged in Washington D.C., fueled by the belief that the election had been ‘stolen’ from their candidate

‘I’m uncomfortable that we possess enough fundamental “rightness” – even in our most scientific centers of study – to exercise [the censorship ideas that we deem harmful] on another human… and what they want to say and what they want to listen to,’ he said. 

‘Instead, we have what they want to hear, which is really the best way to approximate the algorithm.’

‘You talk to a random person – “do you use Facebook, do you use Instagram, do you use Snapchat?” they do and they like it.’

But, for many critics, it doesn’t matter whether users ‘like’ the experience social media apps give them. As Fried pointed out in her questioning,  ‘there are people that believe these tools are fundamentally unsafe, that our democracy is less healthy, our health is less sound because we have misinformation.’

‘If we took every single dollar and human that we had, it wouldn’t eliminate people seeing speech that they didn’t like on the platform,’ Andrew Bosworth (pictured) said in the interview

‘I love the way that I’m able to connect with my cousins that live far away. I don’t feel better that COVID is worse in our country because of the spread of misinformation, some of which is happening on Facebook,’ she stated frankly. 

‘Are you confident that the overall impact of what you do, not just the good… is better than if we didn’t have these tools?’

 Bosworth didn’t address the question. 

‘I don’t feel comfortable at all saying [a person using a social media platform] doesn’t get to have a voice because I don’t agree with what they said.’

Twitter users mocked Bosworth’s evasion of Facebook’s role in the spread of misinformation on its platforms. 

Twitter users mocked Bosworth’s evasion of Facebook’s role in the spread of misinformation on its platforms

‘Andrew Bosworth is completely out of touch,’ wrote one user. ‘Facebook has amplified societal problems, and they’re not accountable at all. If not for Facebook, the size of our problems and divisions would not be as large as they are.’

 Other users were more crass with their scrutinization.

‘We here at Meta give smooth-brained s***gibbons gasoline,’ wrote a cheeky Twitter user. ‘Just because they run around lighting everyone on fire doesn’t make us the bad guys.’ 

Other users were more crass with their scrutinization

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