Social-media company halts some work for existing products while it addresses whistleblowers, lawmakers
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said he has asked leaders to take a deep dive into the work at the company over the next few days and remain committed to continuing research into the company’s products.
“I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the types of experiences my kids and others have online, and it’s very important to me that everything we create is safe and good for kids,” he wrote.
This follows Facebook’s announcement last week that it would halt plans for its Instagram Kids product after lawmakers and others expressed concerns about the photo-sharing platform’s effects on young people’s mental health. Facebook has announced features for existing services such as Facebook Gaming in recent days.
Facebook is answering questions from the public, lawmakers on both sides and others about how its platform works and its impact on users and society.
The investigation follows the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook file series, which included an article showing the company’s internal research that found Instagram to be harmful to a large percentage of young users, especially those with body-image concerns. For teenage girls.
The company has published several blog posts stating that the research was taken out of context.
Mr Zuckerberg weighed in on the controversy for the first time publicly on Tuesday night, saying the Journal’s reporting painted a “false picture” of Facebook and its priorities. The Journal has said it stands behind its reporting.
Facebook’s pledge to continue its research into potential pitfalls comes in the wake of criticism from academics and some former employees that the company should share more data about how its platforms work and affect users to address those issues. to be understood better.
The team behind CrowdTangle, one of Facebook’s top data-analytics tools, was reorganized earlier this year. CrowdTangle founder Brandon Silverman said on Wednesday that he would be leaving the company by the end of the week. “I am not sure what the future holds for CrowdTangle or data transparency at Facebook, but I am optimistic,” Mr Silverman said in his farewell note.
People said Facebook has been cracking down on information it shares internally over the past few weeks. Some said a team within the company is investigating all internal research that could potentially damage Facebook’s image in public.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said the team was trying to better understand Facebook’s internal research and the context in which this was done.
There have been two congressional hearings since the journal’s series was published last month, including one on Tuesday by the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee. During that hearing, former Facebook employee Francis Haugen, who collected the documents that served as the basis for the journal’s reporting and which were provided to federal regulators, shared internal and external research on Facebook more widely. pressured to do so. In products like cars and cigarettes, he said, independent researchers can evaluate health effects, but “the public can’t do that with Facebook.”
Mr Zuckerberg wrote in Tuesday’s Facebook post: “We are committed to doing more research ourselves and making more research publicly available.”
Facebook’s vice president for content policy, Monica Bickert, referred to the documents as plagiarism during an interview Tuesday on CNN after the latest Senate hearing.
Facebook executives are discussing the possibility of suing Ms Haugen for having stolen company documents, people familiar with the conversation said. Some have raised concerns about whether such a move would further damage reputation, said one of the people.
Facebook’s global security chief, Antigone Davis, told senators last week that his company would not retaliate against the individual for providing internal company research to Congress, but did not address any possible further action.
Inside Facebook, several data scientists and internal researchers say the company should release more documents and research. Many other employees say they feel attacked by the media and lawmakers, especially given that other tech companies don’t do this type of research in the first place.
Congressional aides said Facebook’s policy executives have also been trying to influence and influence the attitudes of lawmakers at the company before and after the recent hearings. Facebook executives recently elaborated on the company’s decision to stop Instagram Kids from allies in Congress, and reiterated that the product was conceived to address the issue of kids getting phones at an early age, As per a document mentioned in the Journal.
Policy officials also cited other Facebook internal research conducted to improve its products, such as antibullying actions to restrict certain words and establish word limits, according to the document.
“Of course lawmakers have a lot of questions and our team wants to make sure they have accurate information about what we’re doing,” said Facebook’s Mr. Stone.
Some senators said they would Facebook asking for more information. Congressional aides said they expected lawmakers to call other officials for additional hearings on the matter and that they could submit documents from the company.