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“You Can’t Put That on Me”: Facebook Exec Says “Individual Humans” Are To Blame for Misinformation, Not the Platform

 

Andrew Bosworth is a longtime Facebook executive who will become the company’s Chief Technology Officer next year as it pointlessly rebrands as “Meta.” That means Bosworth will be in charge of the company’s technical direction, and based on a recent interview with Axios, that direction does not look promising—at least not for anyone hoping there was any chance at all that Facebook/Meta might make meaningful changes to its most harmful practices.

Axios’ chief technology correspondent Ina Fried asked Bosworth if he thought the company could be doing more and acting more quickly to respond to “the negative consequences of its products.”

Bosworth responded, “If we took every single dollar and human that we had, it wouldn’t eliminate people seeing speech that they didn’t like on the platform.”

To be clear, we are not talking about people not liking things they see on Facebook. In her question, Fried brought up the January 6 Capitol attack and seemed to be referring to things like misinformation, conspiracy theories, hate speech, and other sorts of dangerous methods of radicalization.

When it comes to misinformation, Bosworth says, “Individual humans are the ones who choose to believe or not believe a thing. They are the ones who choose to share or not share a thing. I don’t feel comfortable at all saying they don’t have a voice because I don’t like what they said.”

Except we’re not just talking about individuals. We know that there are massive disinformation campaigns related to everything from COVID-19 to our elections. Also, in regard to individual people sharing these things, not platforming their harmful lies and conspiracies is not the same thing as denying them a voice!

“Asked whether vaccine hesitancy would be the same with or without social media, Bosworth defended Facebook’s role in combatting COVID, noting that the company ran one of the largest information campaigns in the world to spread authoritative information,” Axios writes.

Bosworth told the outlet, “That’s their choice. They are allowed to do that. You have an issue with those people. You don’t have an issue with Facebook. You can’t put that on me.”

It is incredibly disheartening to hear the person in charge of Facebook’s technical direction be so obtuse when it comes to the coordinated, targeted, misinformation campaigns that run rampant on his site.

Bosworth also insisted that if you ask a random person on the street if they use Facebook or Instagram, they’ll say yes and they’ll say they like using it. But what about the 30% of teen girls who, by Facebook’s own internal reporting, say Instagram makes them feel worse about themselves? Or the 13% of teens who report experiencing suicidal thoughts that they can directly trace back to the platform? Or the 57% of Americans who say they want more government regulation of big tech companies. If Bosworth is putting so much stock in what “random people” have to say about these sites, why is he ignoring these actual things people have said?

I don’t know what Bosworth hoped to accomplish with this interview but if his goal was to get people to have more faith in the future of his company, I can’t imagine he was very successful.

(via Axios, image: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.