Is it enough?
Watching Facebook these days as it pivots from diffusing one “rude development” to another seems a little like watching someone perform a combination plate-spinning and whack-a-mole act.
We’ll call it the Facebook Follies. The question is … is it working?
Last month, Facebook issued its newest Community Enforcement Report – a document that updates the world about improvements the social media giant is making to its platform to enable it to live up to its stated community standards.
Among the improvements touted by the latest report:
- Facebook reports now that ~5% of monthly active accounts are fake. (Still, 5% represents nearly 120 million users.)
- Facebook reports now that its ability to automatically detect “hate speech” in social posts has jumped from a ~24% incidence in 2018 to ~65% today. (But this means that one-third of hate speech posts are still going undetected.)
Moreover, Facebook now reports that for every 10,000 times Facebook content is viewed by users:
- ~25 views contain content that violates Facebook’s violence policy
- ~14 views contain content violating Facebook’s adult nudity and sexual activity policy
- Fewer than 3 views contain content violating Facebook’s policies for each of these categories: global terrorism; child nudity, and sexual exploitation
The community enforcement information is being reported as “wins” for Facebook … but people can’t be faulted for thinking that Facebook could (and should) be doing much better.
On a different type of matter, this past week it was reported that Facebook has agreed to settle a class-action complaint that accused the social platform of inflating viewing metrics on Facebook videos by up to 900%.
Although details of the settlement haven’t been revealed, this development appears to close the book on criticisms that were lodged as far back as 2016, in which advertisers charged that Facebook hadn’t investigated and corrected errors in its metrics — nor allowed for third-party verification of the metrics.
It’s yet another agenda item that’s now been ticked off the list – at least in Facebook’s eyes. But now another controversy has now erupted as reported over the past few days in The Wall Street Journal.
Described in a front-page article bylined by veteran WSJ reporters John McKinnon, Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman and Jeff Horwitz, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears linked to “potentially problematic privacy practices” that date all the way back to 2012, when Facebook signed a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission but that it may have violated subsequently.
Contemporaneous e-mail communications retrieved from the time period suggest that Zuckerberg was more than merely passively involved in deliberations about a particular app that claimed to have built a database stocked with information about millions of Facebook users. Purportedly, the app developer had the ability to display the Facebook user information to others — regardless of those users’ privacy settings on Facebook. The e-mails in question detail speculation about how many other apps were stockpiling such kinds of user data, but the evidence shows little or no subsequent action being taken to shut down the data mining activities.
These latest developments raise questions about the veracity of Facebook’s stated intentions to redouble its efforts to uphold community standards and focus more on user privacy, including moving toward encrypted and “ephemeral” messaging products that are better aligned with the European Union’s existing privacy laws that the United States may also be poised to adopt in the future.
Apparently Facebook recognizes the problem: It’s ramping up its global advertising spending to “rebuild trust” — to the tune of doubling its previous ad expenditures. Here’s what Facebook’s marketing head Antonio Lucio is saying:
“There’s no question we made mistakes, and we’re in the process of addressing them one after the other. But we have to tell that story to the world on the trust side as well as the value site.”
Ad-tracking company Kantar notes a big increase already in Facebook’s U.S. ad spending — up to nearly $385 million in 2018 compared to only around $50 million the year before. As for the campaigns themselves, Facebook is relying on a number of big-name ad agencies like Wieden+Kennedy, Leo Burnett and Ogilvy for developing its various campaigns.
There’s more than a little irony in that.
Considering the latest news items, what are your thoughts about Facebook? Are they on the right track … or is it “too little, too late”? Are their intentions honorable … or are they simply engaged in “window dressing” to get people off their case? Let us know your thoughts.