Facebook admits it can have a harmful effect on democracy

Facebook admits it can have a harmful effect on democracy
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Facebook acknowledged Monday the complicated effect its social network has on politics, admitting that it hasn't always been positive for democracy.

In a series of blog posts, Facebook reckoned with the social media giant's effect on the global political process.

“Facebook was originally designed to connect friends and family — and it has excelled at that,” wrote Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement. “But as unprecedented numbers of people channel their political energy through this medium, it’s being used in unforeseen ways with societal repercussions that were never anticipated.”

Chakrabarti admitted that Facebook was “too slow” in dealing with threats in 2016.

Katie Harbath, Facebook’s global politics and government outreach director, also acknowledged the potential harm the platform could cause when left unchecked.

“From the Arab Spring to robust elections around the globe, social media seemed like a positive. The last US presidential campaign changed that, with foreign interference that Facebook should have been quicker to identify to the rise of ‘fake news’ and echo chambers.”

Both Chakrabarti and Harbath stressed that Facebook is now committed to stamping out abuse and manipulation of its platform.

Facebook has fielded criticism since the conclusion of the 2016 presidential election over how fake and hoax news stories on its platform may have influenced the race. Frustration among critics of the company intensified following revelations that its platform, along with Twitter and Google, was intentionally used by Russians to meddle in American political process.

After Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook draws lawmaker scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens How social media fuels U.S. political polarization — what to do about it Democrats, unions pour cash into California recall fight MORE initially dismissed the idea that Facebook played a significant role in the election, the company began to work to try to stamp out misinformation on its platform by introducing a short-lived feature that allowed users to tag potential hoax stories as “disputed.”

Facebook also introduced new algorithms and human reviewers to try to catch false stories and misleading ads.

Even with the steps it’s taking, Zuckerberg has noted that Facebook won’t be able to catch every bad actor, a sentiment Chakrabarti echoed on Monday.

“Even with all these countermeasures, the battle will never end,” Chakrabarti said. “Misinformation campaigns are not amateur operations. They are professionalized and constantly try to game the system. We will always have more work to do.”