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Facebook’s social balance is in the red – Axios

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Facebook is essential to our lives. Facebook is ruining our lives. Holding both these truths at once will make your head hurt.

While covering the Olympics in Tokyo, I spent a ton of time on Facebook. Each day, during several hourlong bus rides, I would see who was online in Messenger and share photos and stories there with family and friends. I also posted frequently on my news feed.

  • I can’t count how many people told me their favorite part of the Olympic experience was living vicariously through my posts, photos and messages on the social network.

Yes, but: For all Facebook’s benefits, and there are many, revelatory reporting keeps piling up stronger evidence of its harms.

  • The same Facebook that makes it easy to share photos and stories from the Olympics also makes it all too easy to spread lies and half truths that carry further and faster thanks to the company’s powerful algorithms and vast reach.

Driving the news: Thanks to a multipart Wall Street Journal series this week, we have learned:

  • Changes Facebook instituted in 2018 to turn down the dial on contentious politics in people’s feeds had the opposite effect, driving extreme views instead.
  • A system called XCheck, the subject of Monday’s story in the Journal series, placed millions of prominent users in a VIP tier that allowed them to break Facebook’s rules with few or no consequences, leaving the door wide open to the spread of harmful content.
  • The Journal also reported how harmful Instagram can be for young girls — a huge issue that comes as the company continues to weigh a separate version of the photo and video service aimed directly at the under-18 set.
  • Another Journal installment Thursday detailed inadequate responses to illegal content from drug trafficking gangs in Mexico, groups inciting ethnic violence in Ethiopia, and human traffickers providing domestic workers to Persian Gulf nations. “Most of our great integrity work over the last 2 years doesn’t work in much of the world,” one Facebook review reported.

The big picture: While some of these challenges are specific to Facebook, similar problems also plague YouTube, Twitter and other platforms.

Of note: These stories were mostly based on internal reports and documents written by Facebook employees sounding alarms.

  • Facebook has argued that the Journal’s information is outdated and the company has taken many steps to mitigate each problem.

At this point, though, a good portion of the public and the media don’t take the company at its word and don’t trust it to be transparent.

  • Somewhere inside Facebook right now, people are doubtless writing timely reports about its current problems. If we’re lucky, maybe someone will leak them in 2024.

What they’re saying: Instagram head Adam Mosseri, speaking on the Recode podcast, compared Facebook’s social impact to the automobile’s: “Anything that is going to be used at scale is going to have positive and negative outcomes. Cars have positive and negative outcomes.”

  • Many on Twitter jumped on Mosseri to point out how heavily cars are regulated. But Facebook frequently notes its support for updating and expanding internet regulations, as Mosseri did in his interview.
  • More important, maybe, is the way that both autos and social media deliver convenience to users and profit to their makers while offloading their biggest harms — globe-warming carbon emissions, democracy-eroding misinformation — for governments and society to deal with.

Between the lines: Facebook continues to grow around the world, but U.S. numbers for the core Facebook product have stagnated, and it’s losing ground among the young.

For many, the powerful human connections the service makes no longer outweigh the myriad ways in which Facebook is undermining society — promoting medical misinformation, political extremism, teen self-harm and even mob violence in countries halfway around the globe from the company’s headquarters.

Facebook is right to note that these problems predate the social network’s existence, and that it isn’t solely responsible for social divisions. But it’s accountable to society for what happens on its platform. If it can’t regain the trust of the public and public institutions, it will face new investigations, rules and penalties — on top of a ton already in progress.

What’s next: The Journal reports have already sparked letters from Congress, and the documents the stories revealed may give investigators at the Federal Trade Commission more ammunition for the cases they are pursuing.

Our thought bubble: Letters and committee hearings won’t change Facebook. Laws and enforcement actions could, but only if they’re bold — and if they can steer clear of the kind of unintended consequences that keep tripping up Facebook itself.

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Westmoreland County Historical Society Says It Was Banned From Facebook For Using Word ‘Militia’

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The group says it is not alone.By Ross Guidotti

WESTMORELAND COUNTY (KDKA) — The Westmoreland County Historical Society said it has been kicked off Facebook after using a word that violates the social media giant’s rules.

Run and maintained by the Westmoreland County Historical Society, Hanna’s Town is a great place to visit and learn about early American history in the region. Just don’t go looking for the group’s Facebook page.

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“You just can’t find us. We’re not there,” Westmoreland County Historical Society Executive Director Lisa Hays said. “We’re guessing it’s the word militia.”

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

“Some of our programs involve reenactors who portray the militias of the 1770s, 1780s. So we say the militia is going to be here to demonstrate and discuss living history,” she added.

Hays said not long after the group posted that once such group would be part of an upcoming event, Facebook shut the page down.

“There was a glitch and we got kicked off. We tried to log back on and we could not log back on,” Hays said.

The society said not only was its Facebook page deactivated, but several people who work for the society also had their Facebook pages deactivated.

“They lost personal information, personal pictures, personal correspondence,” Hays said.

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Hays said the group is not alone.

“During an internet search, we found that other Revolutionary War period sites were having the same problem,” Hays told KDKA.

The Westmoreland County Historical Society said it has tried everything to get Facebook to listen, but so far no luck.

“I think they’re misguided, misinformed. They don’t know the proper historic use of the word militia,” Hays said.

“There is no need to ban us from Facebook,” she added. “We’re not promoting anything violent or unAmerican.”

KDKA’s Ross Guidotti reached out to Facebook to find out if there was a way this could be rectified. KDKA is awaiting a response.

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For more about the Westmoreland County Historical Society, click here.

Ross Guidotti

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Opinion | The Endless Facebook Apology – The New York Times

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Kara Swisher

Credit…Arsh Raziuddin, The New York Times

Kara Swisher

In March of 2018, I interviewed Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce, at the top of the company’s San Francisco tower. He offered up an astonishing metaphor when I asked him for his take on the impact of social media companies.

“Facebook is the new cigarettes,” Benioff said. “It’s addictive. It’s not good for you.” As it did with cigarette companies, “the government needs to step in,” he added.” The government needs to really regulate what’s happening.”

At the time, I thought it was a flashy reach by an executive who often went out on verbal limbs to make brazen points. But today, after the latest series of investigations into the sketchy acts of the social media giant, Benioff seems like Nostradamus.

In the past weeks, The Wall Street Journal published “The Facebook Files” — well reported pieces that rely on whistle-blowers who are now just tossing incriminating documents over the wall at a furious pace.

The Journal’s series includes: internal reports showing that Facebook was fully aware of Instagram’s deleterious impact on the mental health of teen girls, while moving full steam ahead with an Instagram for Kids product; internal documents inferring that the company lied to its independent Oversight Board when it said it gave only a small amount of celebs, pols and other grandees a wide berth to break its rules on the platform while, in fact, the free pass was given to millions; and the latest revelation that Facebook makes people angry, in part because of futile efforts of its leader, Mark Zuckerberg, to stop the endless rage.

Even when Zuckerberg tries to do the right thing, and loudly, The Journal’s reporting shows how the platform he built is used to undermine his efforts, as we’ve seen with anti-vaccination misinformation.

“Facebook made a heralded change to its algorithm in 2018 designed to improve its platform — and arrest signs of declining user engagement. Mr. Zuckerberg declared his aim was to strengthen bonds between users and improve their well-being by fostering interactions between friends and family. Within the company, the documents show, staffers warned the change was having the opposite effect. It was making Facebook, and those who used it, angrier,” The Journal reported. “Mr. Zuckerberg resisted some fixes proposed by his team, the documents show, because he worried they would lead people to interact with Facebook less.”

It’s important to have this proof of Facebook’s duplicity. But these revelations come as a shock to no one who has been paying attention to the slippery machinations at the company over the years.

What’s most revealing is the persistence of the tired old, so-so-sorry, we’ll-do-better excuses that its executives trot out when the company is called out for its destructive products.

At this point, it’s probably best for Facebook executives to say nothing, since every time they do they trip all over themselves in their weird analogies — which are often centered on the idea that humanity sucked before Facebook.

Yes, fine, mankind has not always bathed itself in glory. But nowadays the human race seems even more abhorrent, and in many more twisted and amplified ways, and it’s because of Facebook, the biggest and least accountable communications and media platform in history.

As The Times’s Kevin Roose noted on Twitter about Facebook’s reaction to the Journal pieces: “It’s just such a weird tactic. Like if Chipotle was getting criticized for having salmonella in its guac or whatever and the CEO’s response was like “well, scaled food production has had many benefits for humanity, including freeing us from being hunter-gatherers.”

The stylings of the company’s head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, are perhaps ground zero for this pointless logrolling.

“Cars create way more value in the world than they destroyed. And I think social media is similar,” he said to Peter Kafka on Recode Media. After giving that feeble analogy, Mosseri was frustrated that he got dunked on because his critics apparently failed to note that he discussed regulation, too, with Kafka. (Listen to the whole interview, to make Mosseri feel better, as it was substantive.)

About the problems for teen girls, Mosseri tried to shine up the, well, you know, noting in another tweet: “The WSJ’s story today on research we’re doing to understand young people’s experiences on IG casts our findings in a negative light, but speaks to important issues. We stand by this work and believe more companies should be doing the same.”

Obviously, you don’t get claps for doing your job. Nor should you get credit when you do the very least to fix problems like these.

So, sadly, I am coming around to the idea that Benioff’s once-over-the-top metaphor — that social media companies like Facebook are as bad for us as cigarette companies — might not be so far off the mark.

Let me say up front, I am not a tech-product reviewer, and this is not a tech review, so take what I say here with a grain of salt. Or rather, with a heaping tablespoon of sugar.

The latest investment trend to occupy the self-absorbed I’ll-never-die efforts of tech dudes — and they are mostly dudes — is continuous glucose monitoring.

C.G.M. is aimed at delivering a fine-grain look at what is being called our “metabolic” health, with devices that have typically been used by those with illnesses like diabetes. The goal is to give a wide range of people more data to grok about glucose-level reactions to the foods we eat, when we eat them, and in what combination.

There are lots of C.G.M. devices out there, all trying to attract the attention of the same groups of consumers who are already counting steps, hours of sleep, meditation effectiveness and much more. The goal is to commercialize and popularize the idea that everything you do physically can be measured digitally.

The C.G.M. app that I tried is from a start-up called Levels, which recently grabbed $12 million in Silicon Valley funding. It’s not the only one getting big investment rounds recently in this fast-growing space, which includes January AI ($8.8 million) and Supersapiens ($13.5 million).

Interest from the tech sector is not a surprise; these guys have long embraced the idea of the “quantified body.” It’s a tiresome term known to anyone who has spent any time around start-up entrepreneurs, who talk about their optimal intermittent fasting schedules ad nauseam.

Earlier entries into this space — so-called wearables — came out about a decade ago. Those include Fitbit, Nike+, Jawbone UP, the Oura Ring, and Whoop. And we can’t forget the all-purpose Apple Watch, which ended up besting them all with close to 34 million devices sold in 2020.

I have owned every one of these and took to calling them “unwearables,” since they came and went like the latest cooking gadget. I have a drawer at home with three Apple Watches, four Fitbits, an Oura Ring and so, so many Ups, as well as others I’ve lost track of.

Besides being mostly bulky, their overall efficacy escaped me. While it’s nice to know my step count, or my sleep patterns, the payoff for wearing these devices, as if I were some kind of pet experiment to tech, was minimal. That is largely because — other than getting links to articles that would help me understand that I should sleep more than four hours a night (duh) or buzzing reminders to stand up more during the workday (double duh) — most of these apps never gave me what I consider truly actionable information.

There have been some more helpful signals of late that wearables will become more useful, including some evidence that indicates that devices like Oura might be able to see some illnesses early, using data from things like heart rate variability and body temperature; some may even be able to pick up early indications of Covid.

One important feature of C.G.M. devices is that they offer data that may be useful. Knowing your steps, for example, is interesting, but that information tells you little about how the steps impact your body. It’s the same for a range of other data you might get from monitoring devices — all informative, but mostly lacking insight that you can use to make changes.

With a C.G.M. device, you can see how your body reacts to specific foods. In my case, the device knew that pita bread was evil incarnate for me — shooting my glucose numbers off the charts. It gave specific data about what I felt — an inevitable energy crash whenever I ate bread in the morning, even as I craved it. Level’s co-founder and chief medical officer, Casey Means, called bread “blood sugar bombs.”

People with diabetes have long used C.G.M. monitors for just these reasons, but now everyone is the market. When I talked with Means over Zoom, she reeled off some anonymized data from 6,000 beta users — there are over 100,000 on a wait list — that shows the foods that impact most people badly. Along with cake, bagels and cookies, some of the big surprises have been granola, oatmeal and even potatoes. Worst takeout: Pizza, Chinese and Thai.

“It looks like an epidemic of metabolic dysfunction,” joked Means. “I see it realistically as making important data more accessible and perhaps help shift the food industry if people begin to demand different options.”

Means said that in order to be most effective, such devices must eventually become cheap and easy to use for a large number of people (I paid about $395 for mine), so the collective real-time data can be used across populations.

Not everyone is convinced. Some have called these devices a waste of time and money with little benefit to those who mostly live in the normal blood glucose range. They say that the information you get is largely useless, even as others think any monitoring and analysis can set in motion behavioral changes that could help limit the glucose fluctuation.

We’ll see, but it’s an interesting investing space to watch, as more money pours in. No matter what: Put down that doughnut.

Has there been anything more entertaining this week than watching people react to a tweet by the rap star Nicki Minaj about an alleged reaction to the Covid vaccine by her cousin’s friend in Trinidad?

It’s certainly easy to dunk on her — she claimed the man’s testicles became swollen — and many did, largely with humor (including me). Though her claim was refuted by the health minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Minaj doubled down on exaggerations by saying she had been invited to the White House (they offered a call with a health expert) and that Twitter had disabled her ability to post (it had not); she is now asserting (on Instagram) that she is being attacked by the amorphous “Establishment” so that “no one will ever ask questions again.”

All of which is codswallop from a celebrity seeking attention and relevance, of course. Cancel culture, as Minaj seems to be implying? More like fact-checking.

Amazon said this week that it will hire 125,000 more employees, to add to the close to 450,000 it has hired since the pandemic started — and the company is dangling an average wage of $18 an hour for these jobs. It also said it would pay 100 percent of college tuition for hourly workers who stay longer than 90 days.

It’s all part of a push by many employers to attract and retain workers amid a dearth of them. But what’s most interesting is that the stimulus checks meant to give relief to workers during Covid have done what union organization was unable to do at the e-commerce giant: Compel it to pay its workers more.

That’s all good, but we should note that Big Tech companies like Amazon have never rewarded shareholders and their executives more, and these changes are no cause for back-patting on the their part.

As the writer Dave Eggers — whose new book, “The Every” imagines a world in which Amazon and Google are merged (Yipes!) — noted to me in a Sway interview this week: “The Bezos way, paying people $15 an hour, a sub-living wage, they hold on to that like it’s such a badge of honor.” Referring to how Amazon touts that it offers health care from day one, along with that $15 an hour, he said: “I don’t understand how that is such a point of pride.”

Word.

Have feedback? Send a note to swisher-newsletter@nytimes.com.

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Facebook Inc. Cl A stock underperforms Friday when compared to competitors – MarketWatch

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Shares of Facebook Inc. Cl A
FB,
-2.24%

slipped 2.24% to $364.72 Friday, on what proved to be an all-around grim trading session for the stock market, with the NASDAQ Composite Index
COMP,
-0.91%

falling 0.91% to 15,043.97 and Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.48%

falling 0.48% to 34,584.88. This was the stock’s third consecutive day of losses. Facebook Inc. Cl A closed $19.61 short of its 52-week high ($384.33), which the company reached on September 1st.

The stock underperformed when compared to some of its competitors Friday, as Microsoft Corp.
MSFT,
-1.75%

fell 1.75% to $299.87, Alphabet Inc. Cl A
GOOGL,
-1.96%

fell 1.96% to $2,816.00, and Twitter Inc.
TWTR,
+0.29%

rose 0.29% to $62.47. Trading volume (26.0 M) eclipsed its 50-day average volume of 12.4 M.


Editor’s Note: This story was auto-generated by Automated Insights, an automation technology provider, using data from Dow Jones and FactSet. See our market data terms of use.

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