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An Ethics Perspective On Facebook – Forbes

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As someone who studies what distracts us at work, Facebook has been on my radar for a long time. I’ve watched their power and influence grow, and I’ve seen how unencumbered they are in going whatever direction they choose. In recent years, our whole society has seen that Facebook is willing to allow large-scale negative or harmful situations to exist on their platform, and the latest eruption resulting from this is the current whistleblower scandal.

In recent years, Facebook has willingly allowed large-scale negative or harmful situations to exist … [+] on their platform. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

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So, recently I engaged with my friend Michael Thate, who teaches Ethics at Princeton University, to get his take on this — particularly as he advises business leaders. I asked him what he sees as the big ethical questions that arise from Facebook’s history and the recent whistleblower’s revelations. Here’s what he had to say. 

Thate: We could discuss the practices that led to the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust case against Facebook. Or we could consider the claim that Facebook developed an algorithm to capture user attention and information into a platform that they knew promoted unhealthy behaviors.

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It is this latter direction I find more interesting and indeed far more urgent to consider. We miss an opportunity to learn and correct harmful practices and toxic cultures if all we do is pile on and revert to common tropes about how bad Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have been. Instead of condemning Facebook’s acquisition practices and their “algorithm,” then, I would rather we come to terms with the fact that in both cases, Facebook has been the most effective player in a harmful game that nearly everyone is playing: let’s call this “the engagement game.”

The Engagement Game

Steinhorst: What, exactly, does this mean? I asked Professor Thate to put that into perspective.

Thate: Whistleblower Frances Haugen claims that Facebook “was substantially worse” than other social networks at which she worked. What is being accented is the degree to which Facebook did what they did. And yet the claim itself is comparative in nature, because everyone is after engagement. 

It shows up everywhere: C-suite anxieties over employee engagement; HR obsessions with engagement surveys; marketing budgets designed to differentiate an organization’s brand within crowded concept spaces; social media platforms catering toward an individual’s curation of an online image; streaming services stating that their main competition is sleep; senators repeating ineffectual drivel to score points with voters; and so on. Everyone is playing the engagement game. Facebook is just the best at it. 

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The “engagement game” is present across industries and platforms – Facebook is just the best at it.

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Steinhorst: So, are you saying that every company that wants to create engagement is like Facebook?

Thate: If the field on which a powerful company plays the game of engagement is an unprincipled devotion to progress that is measured by quarterly earnings, then yes. That is why the criticisms of Facebook’s pursuit of profits over customer well-being amount to next to nothing, in my opinion. What merits investigation and analysis, then, isn’t Facebook as a breach of public trust full stop; but Facebook as the sublime instance of an organization who mastered the engagement game and the social acceleration of progress.

Intent to Ignore Harm

Steinhorst: Yes, but I think the core of what has created the firestorm, in this case, is the knowing intent to ignore real harm. Does that not make Facebook’s situation different than others? 

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Thate: Yes. Agree to agree. But, again, if all that comes out of this moment are Facebook-specific criticisms of their “knowing intent to ignore real harm,” little will change. 

“Big Tobacco” has been brought up in several news stories as a natural comparison. We now know that companies like Philip Morris knowingly obfuscated the addictive and carcinogenic properties of their products to the tune of millions. 

Full disclosure: I was asked by a colleague here at Princeton, David Miller, to help organize an academic panel devoted to the topic of the restoration of corporate trust at PMI headquarters. To say the least, the meetings did not begin well. Nearly every person who attended, criticized the gathering for furthering PMI’s obfuscations. The gathering was heading toward disaster—and an unproductive one at that. Toward the end of our first session, I stated that we can continue along these lines if we wish but only if we put all companies on the table that do harm to their constituents. What about potato chip companies that design snacks that increase hunger? Or what about “Big Sugar” or all those corporations that produce foods and preservatives that increase the chances of heart disease? Or what about our beloved technological gadgets that create horrific work conditions in the majority world? The conversation shifted in that moment toward productive criticisms and disagreements.  

Again, no one wants to be seen defending these corporations who are engaged in ugliness. But if all we do is criticize individual malfeasance — or make declarations against profits at all costs — nothing systemic is being addressed.    

Steinhorst: So, if we don’t confront corporations engaged in activities that are substantially unhealthy for our society, what do you suggest?

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Thate: We can’t let this moment be about Facebook full stop. For one, the “cool kids” really aren’t on the platform like they once were. According to statista.com, kids are on TikTok, Snapchat, and other platforms far more than they are on Facebook. Are we convinced that TikTok and Snapchat or other social media platforms are designing algorithms that foster prosocial engagement and aren’t doing any harm?  

So yes — let’s hold Facebook accountable. And let’s call out their faults. My hope, however, is that in doing so, we don’t stop with Facebook. Everyone must be held accountable and put on the dock. We need to push the discussion of “real harm” to the forefront of every industry and corporation — and the compensation models that promote willful ignorance. We can’t let Facebook be the scapegoat that provides cover for a wider phenomenon to continue. 

Prescription for Change

Steinhorst: Perhaps the reason we don’t look beyond individual companies is that it’s tough to imagine any possibility of real progress or change if everyone is playing. So, with that in mind, what should or can we do collectively — and what should organizational leaders, in particular, do — to create real, positive change?

Thate: I suggest three organizational steps — none of which involve federal regulation:

  1. First, every organization should perform a hazard audit of their goods or services. That is, every company should ask: what aspects of our goods or services promote or have caused harm amongst our stakeholders? 
  2. Next, the organization should reconceive and redesign their goods or services in such a way that promotes the better angels of their stakeholders’ natures. The discussion of doing harm assumes some knowledge of welfare or good. So, if step one is a hazard audit, step two is a welfare audit. What aspects of our goods or services touch on core human needs? How can our goods or services show up in those needs and nudge them toward prosocial outcomes on the one hand, and do good by our stakeholders on the other? 
  3. Finally, organizations must undertake a compensation audit. This step asks the hard question of whether or not compensation schemes and models are rewarding when they further harm. In other words, we must ask, how do we incentivize prosocial good? That is a start.   

Finally, Curt, though I am a reluctant optimist, I do see a flicker of hope in all this. 

Steinhorst: Thanks, Michael, for these insights. I particularly like the concept of having options for companies to redirect themselves, using their own mechanisms and measures to establish their efforts for good. As an idealist, I like to believe that companies can do well in the societies they serve while also doing good, and that although it can be more difficult to achieve that higher plane (compared to taking the low road), there’s less turbulence for both companies and societies when they do.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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Facebook Owner Meta Launches New Platform, Safety Hub to Protect Women in India

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Meta (formerly Facebook) on Thursday announced a slew of steps to protect woman users on its platform, including the launch of StopNCII.org in India that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

Meta has also launched the Women’s Safety Hub, which will be available in Hindi and 11 other Indian languages, that will enable more women users in India to access information about tools and resources that can help them make the most of their social media experience, while staying safe online.

This initiative by Meta will ensure women do not face a language barrier in accessing information Karuna Nain, director (global safety policy) at Meta Platforms, told reporters here.

“Safety is an integral part of Meta’s commitment to building and offering a safe online experience across the platforms and over the years the company has introduced several industry leading initiatives to protect users online.

“Furthering our effort to bolster the safety of users, we are bringing in a number of initiatives to ensure online safety of women on our platforms,” she added.

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StopNCII.org is a platform that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

“It gives victims control. People can come to this platform proactively, hash their intimate videos and images, share their hashes back with the platform and participating companies,” Nain said.

She explained that the platform doesn’t receive any photos and videos, and instead what they get is the hash or unique digital fingerprint/unique identifier that tells the company that this is a known piece of content that is violating. “We can proactively keep a lookout for that content on our platforms and once it”s uploaded, our review team check what”s really going on and take appropriate action if it violates our policies,” she added.

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In partnership with UK Revenge Porn Helpline, StopNCII.org builds on Meta’s NCII Pilot, an emergency programme that allows potential victims to proactively hash their intimate images so they can”t be proliferated on its platforms.

The first-of-its-kind platform, has partnered with global organisations to support the victims of NCII. In India, the platform has partnered with organisations such as Social Media Matters, Centre for Social Research, and Red Dot Foundation.

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Nain added that the company is hopeful that this becomes an industrywide initiative, so that victims can just come to this one central place to get help and support and not have to go to each and every tech platform, one by one to get help and support.

Also, Bishakha Datta (executive editor of Point of View) and Jyoti Vadehra from Centre for Social Research are the first Indian members in Meta”s Global Women”s Safety Expert Advisors. The group comprises 12 other non-profit leaders, activists, and academic experts from different parts of the world and consults Meta in the development of new policies, products and programmes to better support women on its apps.

“We are confident that with our ever-growing safety measures, women will be able to enjoy a social experience which will enable them to learn, engage and grow without any challenges.

“India is an important market for us and bringing Bishakha and Jyoti onboard to our Women”s Safety Expert Advisory Group will go a long way in further enhancing our efforts to make our platforms safer for women in India,” Nain said.

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Facebook Adds New Trend Insights in Creator Studio, Which Could Help Shape Your Posting Strategy

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Facebook’s looking to provide more content insight within Creator Studio with the rollout of a new ‘Inspiration Hub’ element, which highlights trending content and hashtags within categories related to your business Page.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when it becomes available to you, you’ll be able to access the new Inspiration Hub from the Home tab in Creator Studio.

At the right side of the screen, you can see the first of the new insights, with trending hashtags and videos from the last 24 hours, posted by Pages similar to yours, displayed above a ‘See more’ prompt.

When you tap through to the new hub, you’ll have a range of additional filters to check out trending content from across Facebook, including Page category, content type, region, and more.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

That could be hugely valuable in learning what Facebook users are responding to, and what people within your target market are engaging with in the app.

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The Hub also includes insights into trending hashtags, within your chosen timeframe, which may further assist in tapping into trending discussions.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

How valuable hashtags are on Facebook is still up for debate, but you’ll also note that you can filter the displayed results by platform, so you can additionally display Instagram hashtag trends as well, which could be very valuable in maximizing your reach.

Much of this type of info has been available within CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform for journalists, for some time, but not everyone can access CrowdTangle data, which could make this an even more valuable proposition for many marketers.

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Of course, overall performance really relates to your own creative, and thinking through the action that you want your audience to take when reading your posts. But in terms of detecting new content trends, including hashtag usage, caption length, videos versus image posts, and more, there’s a lot that could be gleaned from these tools and filters.

It’s a significant analytics addition – we’ve asked Facebook for more info on the rollout of the new option, and whether it’s already beyond test mode, etc. We’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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