Facebook claims to regulate its policies – amidst the criticism

After facing a scandalous year, Facebook finally tries to address the criticism in a proactive manner. In fact, its initiative was one of the most talked-about changes at Silicon Valley.

As we know, early this year, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress. There he made a surprising request - to have his and other internet companies regulated. His declaration sent other tech giants of Silicon Valley in apprehension who rushed to make amendments to their regulation policies.

However, as we bid farewell to the year 2019, we can see that despite making minute changes, Facebook has not been able to clear the skepticism that resolves around its business. In fact, most of Facebook’s critics say that the changes by Facebook may be cosmetic – a mere tactic to highlight its brand.

Of course, the ‘changes’ worked in Facebook’s favor as the company reported record revenue of $17.6 billion and steady growth in active users in the Q3 of 2019.

After the Cambridge Analytica

The whole rush to regulate business emerged in 2018 when a UK-based data company was accused of improperly accessing data of Facebook users. This created awareness amongst the general public and the regulatory bodies of the ad-driven model used by Facebook and other social media companies to target ads.

Additionally, Russian interference during the 2016 American elections also shone a light on Facebook’s lack of scrutiny on content posted on their platform.

However, since 2019 – after the US and EU regulatory bodies tightened their inquiries, Facebook began to filter out unsolicited content from its network. In fact, Facebook claims to have over 35,000 moderators and contractors in charge of ‘safety and security’ today. The company is also regularly posting updates about its moderation activities and updating policies in order to curb harmful content.

But interestingly, the number of problematic posts continues to increase. Facebook claims to filter out 7 million hate speech posts in its last quarter of 2019. However, the figure is more than double the 2.9 million it reported in the same period of 2018.

Similarly, Facebook has taken down approximately 5.4 billion fake accounts in 2019 – a number far greater than the actual active accounts on the platform.

On the contrary, industry critics say that Facebook's attempts are just an elaborated effort and potentially not so ‘sincere.’ They also say that Facebook can do a better job of eradicating negative influences on its platform using advanced technology.

What does the future hold?

Facebook's biggest mistake this year was allowing political advertising on its platform without fact-checking. Several months ago, Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company would not be fact-checking the adverts posted by politicians during the upcoming election campaign in America. He justified his move by saying politicians should be given the right to practice freedom of speech.

However, his statement was met with a public backlash that led other social media platforms to reevaluate their policies during elections. While Twitter completely banned political ads, Snapchat and Twitter said they would fact-check and limit election-related posts on their network.

Facebook’s unwillingness to disrupt its moneymaking model through ads again gave way to the critics who say that expecting Facebook to regulate itself is purely foolish.

Photo: REUTERS/Erin Scott

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