A bad month for Facebook (or is it Meta?!) – but what are we actually worried about?

Diego already pointed to this week’s topic: Facebook (even if last week’s topic was intellectual property!)

In her testimony before the US Congress, Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower highlighted the dangers posed by its algorithms. In some circles, such as The Guardian, she has been heralded as a ‘modern US hero‘ and this week she testified before the UK Parliament’s Online Safety Bill Committee. By contrast, Nick Clegg, the former UK Deputy Prime Minister and current Facebook VP, argues that removing its algorithms may lead to more hate speech and misinformation

Meanwhile, Instagram (part of Facebook) has been receiving negative publicity for suppressing a report it had commissioned on the harm to girls posed by the app. There have also been accusations that Facebook and Instagram have not been vigilant enough and that the sites have been used for human trafficking, for hate speech that would lead to violence, for encouraging or least not defusing sectarian violence, Many (including some of their own executives) have asserted Facebook was responsible for Donald Trump’s election.

Maria Ressa, the Filipino journalist who won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize goes further and accuses Facebook of being a threat to democracy and ‘biased against facts’.

A longstanding concern is not rooted in any particular behaviour but that Facebook is simply too big. If so, one logical recommendation that flows from such a concern is to break it up and the obvious way to do that would be to forcibly break off Instagram and WhatsApp.

  1. Are you concerned about Facebook? If not, why not? If so, then what aspects do you find particularly problematic and what do you see as the solution?
  2. How would different policy models approach the question of regulating or breaking up Facebook?