How Social Media Platforms Can Avoid Trouble
The last few weeks have not been good for Facebook, since the the Wall Street newspaper started publishing on September 13 on Facebook files. Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen came out last week 60 minutes and in testimony to Congress to state that this documentary evidence shows how Facebook prioritizes profits over the risk of spreading misinformation and harmful content. It hurts the face of Facebook and its books; its public image has been tarnished and the stock has fallen 13% since reaching an all-time high in early September.
Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg defended Facebook on NBC on Sunday Meet the press, alluding to the 40,000 people she employed and the $ 13 billion she spent to fight disinformation and hate speech. How did Facebook come to this, despite the enormous resources it claims to have deployed? Is there any hope that social media platforms can stay out of trouble? I think there is a chance, if social media companies draw a clear line between social platforms and news platforms.
Facebook has never shied away from being a source of information. The feed itself is called “News Feed” and has become the de facto term for content feeds on social media platforms. Facebook has its own news app which features prominently on its menu and work on a self-publishing news platform. Regardless of its strategic intent, the market views Facebook feed as a primary source of information. According to Bench search, about half of Americans regularly use social media as a source of information, and a third of Americans do so on Facebook.
And this is where the problem lies. Social media platforms are meant to enable social interaction and community building, and naturally you will see the good and the bad of society reflected. My colleagues Doreen Shanahan and Cristel Russell from Pepperdine Graziadio Business School worked with Ana Babic Rosario of the University of Denver to study the nature of social interaction on Facebook groups. Shanahan says, “We have found that the social pressure in Facebook groups is paradoxical. It can be beneficial when it contributes to the feeling of empathy of members, leading to greater informational value. But social pressure packaged in harsh comments can generate angst and negative social dynamics that are detrimental to the community.
A social media platform that is also seen as a news source will be held accountable by users, government, and society for poor performance, at least more than those who are not viewed that way. But based on this research, there is little chance that Facebook will be able to effectively manage the information flow and social dynamics of its. 3 billion users for positive results. Russell reflects, “If anxiety and stress emerge within social groups that have similar affinities, interests and goals, imagine what is happening in the Wild West of news feeds, likes and comments. People need to realize that, like in any other social setting, we become vulnerable when we engage with others, share our own experiences, and respond to those of others. Facebook is a catalyst for social interaction at a mass level, so the risks of vulnerability are proportional to its massive size.
Positioning a social media platform as a source of information can contribute to negative results, as users tend to believe what is posted on the platform, regardless of the source. Additionally, news feeds tailored to our preferences, tastes, and friends are inherently biased and can become echo chambers of what we want to believe in, which can have detrimental social effects. These echo chambers have led to the legitimization of disinformation and the political polarization that we see today.
So what can Facebook do to get out of this mess? It could try to verify the content better like an information platform would, but it seems expensive and inaccessible because much of the content is user generated and distributed by word of mouth. On the contrary, I think Facebook can strategically evolve to keep up with other social media platforms that have stayed away from the news. Tik Tok and Twitch, for example, are used only regularly for news by 6% and 1% of Americans, respectively.
How can Facebook make this strategic shift? Theresa de los Santos, journalism professor at Pepperdine’s Seaver College, alludes to the solution: “It’s problematic that a company designed to gain attention has become a primary source of ‘news’ information. There is a difference between someone sharing a news organization news article or fringe content or their personal experience or opinion as news. This is an information literacy problem. “
Facebook can leverage all of its platforms, including Instagram, to proactively deploy information campaigns against disinformation. He may deliberately offer the disclaimer that his news feed on its own is not a reliable and unbiased source of information, or at least warn readers to check their sources. The social impact would be very positive, and to the benefit of Facebook shareholders, it would prevent ongoing PR crises and save billions of dollars that would be spent to address the problem. Content monitoring resources can then be reallocated to enforcing its community standards against crime, bullying and other negative social behavior, a win-win situation for the company and for Facebook’s reputation.
Ultimately, I predict that Facebook will come out in favor of long-term profits because that’s what Facebook executives get paid for. As a business and technology enthusiast, I don’t find the pursuit of profit in technology surprising. What surprises me is how often companies make growth moves for growth, regardless of possible negative consequences. Social media businesses can be better off by staying away from a role in the news and focusing instead on their role as a social facilitator. For Facebook, it’s worth considering, to save face while improving the books.