Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Internal Facebook Investigation Showed The Platform Increasing Division: Report

By Donna Fuscaldo – May 27, 2020 at 11:38AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

An internal inquiry at the social media giant found its algorithms were polarizing users instead of helping it realize its mission to connect the world.

Facebook (META -2.88%) knew its algorithms were serving up content that divided users, but did nothing to stop it, reports The Wall Street Journal

Citing internal documents and people familiar with the effort, the WSJ reports that in 2018 the social media giant began looking into whether or not its algorithms were creating content that was divisive. The internal inquiry was prompted in part by the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the now-defunct political consulting firm accessed information on 187 million Facebook users without their consent.

Facebook thumbs up and down icons in red and blue.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

When presented with the findings, however, Facebook didn't act. Instead, Mark Zuckerberg and other executives at the company ignored the research and prevented employees from applying any of the findings to products, reports the WSJ. Joel Kaplan, Facebook's policy chief, called it "paternalistic" to reduce the discord on the platform. Another reason not to highlight the findings: backlash from conservatives who accused Facebook of being politically biased. 

The staff did come up with ways to make conversations on Facebook more civil, including tweaking algorithms to suggest a broader range of groups users can engage with and limiting the postings of hot button topics. However, those suggestions would have hurt Facebook's ability to grow and required the tech stock to take a "moral stance" on issues, something it chose not to do. Efforts to build a system to classify polarizing content and ideas to reduce political clickbait were also killed by senior executives. 

"We've learned a lot since 2016 and are not the same company today," a Facebook spokeswoman told the WSJ in response to its report. "We've built a robust integrity team, strengthened our policies and practices to limit harmful content, and used research to understand our platform's impact on society so we continue to improve." 

 




Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Donna Fuscaldo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Meta Platforms, Inc. Stock Quote
Meta Platforms, Inc.
META
$136.37 (-2.88%) $-4.04

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
329%
 
S&P 500 Returns
106%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 09/26/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.