Facebook says it’ll start being more forthcoming about how and why it addresses some of today’s most controversial issues surrounding social media, including its use as a terrorist recruiting tool, its role in spreading made-up news stories, and how people can be kept safe online.
In a blog post this morning, Facebook’s public policy VP, Elliot Schrage, says the company will begin writing blog posts “not only to explain some of our choices but also explore hard questions.” Its first post is on the ways Facebook is trying to fight terrorism, and it provides a pretty extensive overview of the work being done with AI, human moderators, and government partnerships.
Facebook says its goal with these blog posts is to “broaden that conversation” around challenging topics. The company is usually fairly private about its role and responsibilities until it’s forced to say something — as has happened frequently over the past year — and there’s a vague indication here that Facebook could be interested in taking more outside comments on what it should be doing.
Whether that’s the case is still a bit unclear, though. Facebook also makes it sound like these posts are for its own benefit, so that the public can see that, yes, Facebook is in fact thinking these issues over. “Even when you’re skeptical of our choices, we hope these posts give a better sense of how we approach them — and how seriously we take them,” Schrage writes.
Schrage says Facebook will be taking suggestions on topics to write about and how its responses can improve. The company has even set up an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, where you can give it feedback on hard questions faced at fb.com.
What’ll ultimately matter is how open Facebook decides to be in these forthcoming blog posts, as well as how often it decides to update the public on its thinking. There’s a small degree here to which Schrage seems to indicate that Facebook is aware of how much deep water the company has found itself in, having come a long way from its roots as a carefree message board for college students a decade ago.
With its outsized role in today’s spread of information, it’s increasingly important that Facebook provide some transparency into how it’s addressing critical subjects like the spread of hate and polarization online. Simply by being more open about its policies, Schrage suggests that Facebook can start to make improvements. “We believe that by becoming more open and accountable, we should be able to make fewer mistakes and correct them faster,” he writes.
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