Facebook’s image suffered some serious blows in 2017. So rather than wear a tie everyday or learn a complex foreign language (as he has in years past), Mark Zuckerberg’s personal mission for 2018 is fixing systemic problems with his company.
He pledged to look critically at issues like “abuse and hate” and “defending against interference by nation states,” in a Facebook post Thursday.
The latter shined the brightest and most unflattering spotlight on Facebook last year. The company allowed agents of the Russian government to buy political ads and spread organic posts that reached millions around the 2016 election. Facebook — along with Google and Twitter — were dragged before a series of congressional hearings to testify on Russian election interference as a result. Facebook handed over several thousand Russia-linked ads in cooperation with congressional investigators.
Facebook also came under fire for allowing posts with information fabricated (by domestic and international users) to spread. The way Facebook was deployed in the 2016 election eroded public trust in the company. An October poll showed that most Americans don’t trust technology companies or the government to keep the influence of foreign governments out of U.S. elections.
“Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force,” Zuckerberg wrote in his post Thursday. “But today, many people have lost faith in that promise. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it.”
Zuckerberg’s message is likely to be met with skepticism, given Facebook’s past attempts to curb abuse. In December of 2016, Facebook rolled out new tools allowing users to report posts they believed to be fake. The social media giant partnered with independent fact-checking organizations, like Snopes and PolitiFact, to investigate. A year later, reports surfaced that those same fact-checkers considered the program to be failure, claiming their work had been exploited to improve Facebook’s image.
Zuckerberg seems to realize the efforts Facebook has made so far aren’t cutting it. Whether he can make meaningful changes in 2018 remains to be seen.
“We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools,” he wrote. “If we’re successful this year then we’ll end 2018 on a much better trajectory.”
Read the full post below.