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Internal Facebook report found algorithms drove people apart: report

Internal Facebook report found algorithms drove people apart: report
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Facebook executives ignored information from an internal report that found the social media site’s algorithm cultivated tribal behavior and political divisiveness, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness,” read a slide from a 2018 presentation of the study, according to the Journal. 

The report found that “If left unchecked” Facebook would feed users “more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention & increase time on the platform.”

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According to the Journal, the 2018 study and previous internal studies found that the algorithms were responsible for their growth.

While discussing potential changes, Facebook found that amending the algorithm would disproportionately affect conservative users just as the company was facing accusations of having a political bias. 

Facebook, which spent the years following the 2016 election grappling with the ethical dilemmas on how their platform presented content to users, began deciding how to prioritize “user engagement.”

The company spent much of 2017 and 2018 seeking to address the issue by assigning engineers and researchers to a cross-jurisdictional task force dubbed “Common Ground” and employees in newly created “Integrity Teams” embedded around the company.

The Common Ground was disbanded and the Integrity Teams still operate, though many senior staffers left the company or now work on Facebook’s Instagram platform, according to the Journal.

A  spokesperson for Facebook told The Hill that the company has "learned a lot since 2016" and is "not the same company today."

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"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," they continued. "Just this past February we announced $2M in funding to support independent research proposals on polarization."

Chris Mill Rodrigo contributed to this report.

Updated: 7:55 p.m.