Facebook refutes WSJ report, lists efforts to curb polarisation

The WSJ report examined a rigorous process Facebook instituted called ‘eat your veggies’ that was designed to vet new products before they were shipped.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

San Francisco, May 27 : Facebook on Wednesday refuted a Wall Street Journal report claiming that the company “shut down efforts to make the site less divisive” and “largely shelved” internal research on whether social media increases polarisation.

Detailing the investments Facebook has done so far to fight polarisation, Guy Rosen, Vice President Integrity at the company, said that the story “wilfully ignored” critical facts that undermined its narrative.

“The piece disregarded how our research, and research we continue to commission, informed dozens of other changes and new products. It also ignored other measures we’ve taken to fight polarization,” said Rosen.

As a result, he added, that readers were left with the impression “we are ignoring an issue that in fact we have invested heavily in”.

Rosen said that in 2018, Facebook made a fundamental change to the way content is surfaced in people’s News Feed to prioritize posts from friends and family over news content.

“This was based on extensive research that found people derive more meaningful conversations and experiences when they engage with people they know rather than by passively consuming content,” he stressed.

According to the WSJ report, Facebook’s algorithms weren’t bringing people together but “were driving people apart”.

According to Rosen, the company has in fact reduced clickbait headlines.

“We’ve reduced links to misleading and spammy posts. And we’ve improved how comments are ranked to show people those that are more relevant and of higher quality,” he added.

Facebook currently has a global team of more than 35,000 people working across the company on issues to secure the safety and security of it services, “including those related to polarization”.

“We’ve removed billions of fake accounts. We made it easier to see who is behind political ads. And we’ve updated our privacy settings and built new tools to give people more control over their information,” said Rosen.

The WSJ report examined a rigorous process Facebook instituted called ‘eat your veggies’ that was designed to vet new products before they were shipped.

“The process was put in place as a response to valid criticism, including from the media, that tech companies weren’t doing enough to anticipate unintended uses of their products,” said Rosen.

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