Saturday, April 1, 2023

Assigning blame in the latest Facebook fiasco

OMG. OMG. OMG.

I am reading the transcript of this week’s 60 Minutes interview with whistleblower Frances Haugen, a data scientist who since June 2019 has been working as a product manager at Facebook.

“When we live in an information environment that is full of angry, hateful, polarizing content, it erodes our civic trust, it erodes our faith in each other, it erodes our ability to want to care for each other,” Haugen said to CBS correspondent Scott Pelley. “The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.”

Some would say that Haugen’s words, backed by thousands of pages of secretly copied documents, represent the smoking gun that proves Facebook is an evil entity that is ruining our society. Many are calling for heads to roll.

Well, I want to do my part to help shine a light on those at fault, and I am going to start by leading you to the guilty parties.

I have done the research, leaving no stone unturned. I am ready to set the stage for justice to be served. The perpetrators have been making extraordinary efforts to evade blame, and they are likely to deny responsibility once I reveal their identities to you. They may even lash out at me, which is why I need your support.

Illegitimis non carborundum (don’t let the bastards wear you down)! You, the reader, and I may not be untouchable, but Eliot Ness would be impressed with our unwavering commitment to carrying out justice.

Are you ready for this? OK, here we go.

Please walk down the hallway to the nearest bathroom. Now, carefully turn on the light. You are doing great!

Now, look directly into the large, reflective plate of glass. There you have it; the guilty party has been revealed right before your eyes. Feel free to execute a citizen’s arrest, but I recommend against using handcuffs if the key is not nearby. Case closed.

Of course, there are exceptions, but billions of people have allowed media companies to play with them. And it has become increasingly more acceptable – perhaps even en vogue – to avoid personal responsibility. Who needs to be accountable to one’s self or anyone else when it is so easy to point fingers.

This is a society in which we elect reality-TV stars, drama teachers who wear blackface, Hollywood bodybuilders, and pro wrestlers to be our top politicians. And we are offended because tech executives seek to take advantage of an intellectual wasteland (aka North America) in amassing enormous riches for themselves and their fellow shareholders?! Please.

I accept that giant media companies stir the pot with sensationalized content and encourage the proliferation of misinformation so we can all feel like we are playing a role in the scandal-laden soap opera that is Life in the 21st Century. They chose this path in order to maximize profits.

Many of you will continue to be suckers for the superficiality and scandal of social and mainstream media. That is fine. I feel zero animosity toward Mark Zuckerberg and the likes for lining their pockets with the profits of persuasion. Yes, it would be fantastic if the folks in the most powerful positions placed the common good ahead of profits, but I certainly don’t expect it. Neither should you.

Said Haugen in the 60 Minutes interview: “I have a lot of empathy for Mark, and Mark has never set out to make a hateful platform. But he has allowed choices to be made where the side effects of those choices are that hateful, polarizing content gets more distribution and more reach.”

It used to be the Devil we would blame for sowing the seeds of discontent. Now, Mark Zuckerberg is being cast as the Prince of Darkness. Well, that is a Hell of a leap – and one that is convenient for those who like to chalk up malevolence to fate, as opposed to taking personal responsibility and putting effort into making things better.

Let us avoid shooting the Messenger. It’s time to book a little facetime in front of the mirror, and change our status from quo.

Visiting a truth/respect-focused media platform is a good start 🙂

Rob Driscoll
Rob Driscoll is co-founder and president of BIG Media Ltd. He is a writer and entrepreneur who is deeply committed to elevating the level of coverage of our society's most pressing matters as well as the level of respect in public discourse.

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