Whistleblowers, Public Opinion, Government Oversight, More: ResearchBuzz, Special Facebook Edition, November 16, 2021


TechCrunch: Facebook’s new academic research API opens in early access. “This week, a handful of academic researcher teams will gain access to a new tool from Facebook designed to aggregate near-universal real-time data on the world’s biggest social network. When it comes to who gets access to Facebook data and how, the company now known as Meta is still feeling reverberations from 2018’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a political consulting firm harvested the personal data of millions of unaware Facebook users to build detailed profiles on potential voters.”

Business Insider: After years of struggling to get people to leave Facebook, tech recruiters say there’s an exodus building at the company. “Kali [Hays]’ story, and another this week from Insider’s Rob Price describing burnout and frustration at the tech giant, hint at a shift in how staffers at what’s now known as Meta look at the company. Yes, they’re still well paid, and yes, lots of people still want to work there. The company is still hiring, planning to bring on 10,000 people to build its metaverse. But there’s a feeling among some employees that there’s more interesting work to be done elsewhere. That poses a risk for any company that depends on having the best talent.”


Snopes: Does ‘New Facebook/Meta Rule’ Permit Company To Use Your Photos?. “In November 2021, a copypasta post claiming that a new ‘Facebook/Meta rule’ allows Facebook (lately renamed ‘Meta’) to use members’ photographs without their permission circulated widely on that platform.” This rumor has been circulating for years and is STILL not true.


CNET: Facebook says it can’t keep up with oversight board’s recommendations. “Facebook says it can’t keep up with the recommendations its oversight board is producing and wants changes to the process. In a report released Tuesday, the giant social network says it wants to work with the quasi-independent body to ‘improve the recommendation process.’ The company, which recently rebranded as Meta, didn’t detail what changes it might be seeking but said it had spoken with the board.”

Scroll India: Sophie Zhang interview: Facebook prioritises Indian power players, not Indian people. “Sophie Zhang knows all too well the influence Facebook can wield over a society. As a data scientist working at the tech giant, she saw up close the social media platform being exploited to undermine political systems around the world, including India. So, in 2020, she wrote a 7,800-word memo, laying out damning details of ‘Facebook’s failures’.”

New York Times: When a Logo Doesn’t Risk It All: Meta’s Brand Is Designed for Unknown Worlds. “To design experts, the change by a scandal-plagued company was the latest example of efforts by corporate America to create brands that are less unique and ultimately less offensive. It was also a reflection of the growing challenge for corporate identities to exist in many different sizes and digital settings at once, from V.R. headsets to smartwatches — a challenge that is magnified for Meta as it tries to establish an identity for something that largely doesn’t exist yet.”

The Verge: Meta CTO thinks bad metaverse moderation could pose an ‘existential threat’. “Meta (formerly Facebook) CTO Andrew Bosworth warned employees that creating safe virtual reality experiences was a vital part of its business plan — but also potentially impossible at a large scale. In an internal memo seen by Financial Times, Bosworth apparently said he wanted Meta virtual worlds to have ‘almost Disney levels of safety,’ although spaces from third-party developers could have looser standards than directly Meta-built content. Harassment or other toxic behavior could pose an ‘existential threat’ to the company’s plans for an embodied future internet if it turned mainstream consumers off VR.”

Independent: Facebook mysteriously banned people from saying ‘#SaltBae’. “Facebook had blocked any mention of #SaltBae around the world after a controversy over one of his gold-encrusted steaks. Anyone who had searched for the phrase during that time showed a message saying that it had violated community standards. The company has now reversed the decision – but said it was not clear why the hashtag had been banned in the first place.”


Radio Free Asia: Facebook Papers: Chinese state-linked hackers targeting Cambodian opposition. “A hacker collective with suspected ties to Chinese intelligence has engaged in ‘consistent and long-term targeting’ of officials from the Cambodia National Rescue Party, an internal investigation by Facebook found.”

CNN: Ohio Attorney General sues Meta over revelations from the ‘Facebook Papers’. “Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Monday announced that he is suing Meta, the social media giant formerly known as Facebook, based on revelations from whistleblower Frances Haugen and the trove of internal company documents she leaked.”


KnowTechie: Surprise! Three out of four adults think Facebook is bad for society. “If you’ve seen or heard any kind of news lately, you’re probably aware of just how much scrutiny Facebook has come under over the last couple of months. Well, a new survey from CNN shows just how bad Facebook’s reputation has gotten. Three out of four adults say that the company makes society worse.”

Los Angeles Times: Op-Ed: Think Facebook is invincible? Here’s how the social media giant can be held accountable. “Facebook should further be held liable for misleading public statements about the nature of its products. For example, the company’s statements about the mental health benefits of social apps for young people glaringly omit its own internal research showing that Instagram use makes body image issues worse for 1 in 3 teenage girls. Facebook’s products and what the company says about them should be fair game for product liability lawsuits.”

FiveThirtyEight: Facebook’s Algorithm Is Broken. We Collected Some Spicy Suggestions On How To Fix It. . “If the algorithm is to blame, can Facebook change the algorithm to make it better? What would that look like? To find out, I interviewed 12 leading experts on data and computer science, as well as former Facebook employees, and asked them to propose changes that could help the algorithm suck less. What I got was a range of ideas about how Facebook could start to solve this problem, or whether a solution is even possible. Some are more radical than others, so I’ve categorized these ideas from mild to spicy (though we know Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg prefers it sweet).”

EFF: After Facebook Leaks, Here Is What Should Come Next. “When Mark Zuckerberg went in front of Congress to address his company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal over three years ago, America’s lawmakers seemed to have trouble agreeing on basic things like how the company’s business model worked, not to mention the underlying causes of its issues or how to fix them. But since then, policymakers and politicians have had time to educate themselves…. Now, the Facebook Papers have once again thrust the company into the center of public discourse, and the scale of the company’s problems have captured the attention of both news outlets and Congress. That’s good—it’s high time to turn public outrage into meaningful action that will rein in the company.” Good morning, Internet…

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