Mark Zuckerberg appears to be taking the “this is fine” route on the way out of what was arguably the worst year in his company’s decade-plus history.
In a lengthy year-in-review post on Facebook, Zuckerberg began by writing that his “personal challenge has been to focus on addressing some of the most important issues facing our community—whether that’s preventing election interference, stopping the spread of hate speech and misinformation, making sure people have control of their information, and ensuring our services improve people’s well-being.” While he said he was “proud of the progress we’ve made,” the post arrives less than 48 hours after a New York Times report illustrated that many of Facebook’s systems for moderating content on its platform are broken or ineffective.
To his benefit, Zuckerberg acknowledged the issue at the heart of some of Facebook’s biggest problems: He correctly stated that “addressing [issues on Facebook] is more than a one-year challenge,” adding that with some issues “like election interference or harmful speech, the problems can never fully be solved.” Zuckerberg went on to list several changes to his product this year that were designed to mitigate harm. But that’s where the post begins to gloss over the fact that these are serious problems with potentially catastrophic outcomes—and that they exist in large part because of Facebook.
Zuckerberg also wrote that improved security measures work to ensure that “people have control of their information” and that changes have been made to “prevent issues like what we saw with Cambridge Analytica from happening today.” But this appears to disregard any number of Facebook’s recent privacy scandals—not to mention the damning revelation just last month that Facebook considered selling access to user data. It also ignores the reality that user data is already out there, and that no number of tweaks to its platform will make that any less disconcerting.
“I’ve learned a lot from focusing on these issues and we still have a lot of work ahead,” Zuckerberg wrote, before adding: “I’m proud of the progress we’ve made in 2018 and grateful to everyone who has helped us get here.”
That Facebook remains largely optimistic about its influence in the world seems charitably foolish. History has shown that Facebook wields immense power beyond what it’s reasonably capable of managing.
In spite of its intentions, things are not fine at Facebook.