Lately, Facebook has received a lot of love and hate from the world. It has been a center for both communal collaborations and social unrest, especially in the past couple months. Yet, the company is not working to address its faults. Mark Zuckerberg, as the CEO and a major shareholder of Facebook, must work harder to protect his users, after information has arisen about social media’s negative effects on teenagers, and after the recent blows our democracy has taken as a result of misinformation and polarization exacerbated by social media.
Instagram is a platform owned by Facebook. For one in three teenage girls, Instagram worsens their body image. It is clear that Facebook is aware of this issue. These statistics were admitted to during a press conference, but Facebook has yet to use this information to lead to change in the way it operates. The company’s internal research on how Instagram affects people proved that the reactions to social media were “mixed,” a word too vague to promote further discussions. It seems that Facebook is satisfied with the amount of research done in this field, but simply knowing that consequences exist is not enough.
In late 2020, Facebook’s group recommendations feature was guiding users to different political groups, according to the Wall Street Journal. Just weeks before the 2020 presidential election, the company decided to turn off this feature — after having refused to do so earlier.
Frances Haugen, the recent Facebook whistleblower and former member of the civic-integrity team, left the company in May. She explained in numerous interviews that she had been concerned with Facebook’s lack of effort to put their users’ well-being and safety first.
Democracy in the US has always been fragile, particularly since the 2016 presidential election, when fake news and voter fraud was prevalent. Facebook has only added to the issue of misinformation. In January, some organizers of the terrorist attack on the Capitol planned the riot through Facebook. The company responded to this information by claiming that the discontinuation of safety features after the election did not promote the riot, but many people still remained skeptical.
Leaked Facebook documents from November 2020 showed the ways in which the company dealt with misinformation and misleading opinions about the elections, but the reality is that these efforts were weak.
Just knowing this information is not enough, and immediate action is required. If Facebook wants to be the safe, creative place it claims to be, its leaders must create a more welcoming environment for everyone. This would save their reputation, and the company would draw in even more users.
Facebook has paved the way for online life across the world, and it would be a shame to see it succumb to pressures such as presidential elections and body image, when it could have the power to create positive change. Social media has the potential to unite people, spark collective action, and uplift voices, but it is critical to keep in mind that Facebook has incredible power that can have dangerous social consequences.