A looming shadow of sharp scrutiny and even sharper criticism have been surrounding Facebook ever since the testimony by Frances Haugen unveiled some crucial matters that were hitherto unnoticed or consciously swept under a whitewashed carpet of illusory ethics. Facebook’s overall situation hasn’t exactly been favorable for some time now with the consistent privacy concerns and so on leaving a stain on the credibility of the social media platform. And now with Haugen explicitly stating all the misdeeds and throwing light on matters of importance, the unfavorable position has become all the more pronounced. And now the testimony has brought into the spotlight the persistent state of violence and instability in places like Ethiopia and Myanmar and its connection with Facebook.
The Question of Accountability
Accountability and social responsibility are major tenets for a widely popular social media platform like Facebook with millions of users worldwide. The fact that it is being used by a multitude of humans with their own perspective and viewpoints, sometimes often colliding at the wrong angles, makes it all the more necessary for the company to keep a check on the activity and to regulate that what is against the basic rules of conduct. Haugen was implying this while she talked about the terrible violence that has been unfolding in Myanmar and Ethiopia and how through its lack of regulation on the activity, Facebook is responsible for “literally fanning ethnic violence.” Now, ethnic violence is not a simple term. It holds levels of implications that are quite dangerous and can cost the lives of many. Haugen stresses the point that Facebook has been quite lax with its activity regulation outside the U.S. This points to a massive error on the company’s part because by disregarding its duty to keep a check on the violence-mongering activity, it has looked past its social responsibility. Another important question is whether this lack of regulation could be called an “error” if it was a conscious move on the part of the company so as to augment its profits. This prioritization of profits over safety puts forth yet another chain of ethical questions which Facebook will have to answer in the long run.
The Violence in Myanmar
A good majority of the population in Myanmar use Facebook, especially as a primary source of news which adds to the weight it holds. As per an investigation conducted by Global Witness, it was revealed that Facebook’s algorithm promoted posts that went completely against its own policies. These posts might have played a major role in inciting violence against the protestors who were marching against the military coup. And one must take care to note that this is not the first time social media posts have acted as a catalyst for violence. Back in 2018, the same happened with the Rohingya crisis when Facebook failed to put a check on the hateful posts just because their engagements rates were rather high and hence, profitable. The same goes for Ethiopia where hateful and violent social media posts have often manifested in the form of outside violence and harm. These far-reaching impact the posts have, often leading to a sort of mob mentality, simultaneously indicates the advantages and disadvantages of the social media platform and the crucial necessity to prioritize social responsibility and morals over mere profits.