As reporting on the Facebook Papers offers a public look into many nooks and crannies of the company’s private operations and deliberations, CITAP researchers are following the news alongside many others. A few highlights from our perspective:
“It moves into a country without fully understanding its potential impact on local culture and politics, and fails to deploy the resources to act on issues once they occur.”
The New York Times delved into the Facebook’s challenges countering bots, fake accounts, disinformation, and hate speech in India. As Nathan Matias at Cornell summed it up, “It's clearer & clearer that colonialism is the right analogy for how tech firms operate globally.”
“Facebook routinely makes exceptions for powerful actors when enforcing content policy.”
In response to multiple articles highlighting the politicization of internal policy and enforcement decisions, Shannon McGregor tweeted “To be honest y’all - we’ve been showing this in our research for some time now.”
“Though Smith had never expressed interest in conspiracy theories, in just two days Facebook was recommending she join groups dedicated to QAnon, a sprawling and baseless conspiracy theory and movement that claimed Trump was secretly saving the world from a cabal of pedophiles and Satanists.”
NBC News summarized internal Facebook research in which a test user’s news feed became inundated with conspiracies and disinformation even without opting in to the groups or pages making those posts.
Joe Bak-Coleman of the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public expressed his concerns that the current regulatory and press focus exludes researchers. Zeynep Tufekci agrees:
Joe Bak-Coleman @jbakcolemanThe most troubling thing about the Facebook papers is the way that academics have largely been shut out of the process. A 🧵👇
For Their Use and to Our Detriment
If you weren’t able to join us in person or virtually for Danielle K. Brown’s talk in the Hussman Media Justice series, it’s available on YouTube. (The presentation begins at approximately 24 minutes, after resolving technical difficulties with the room’s A/V.)
Dr. Brown discussed her research into how the media covers police violence against Black women—or more accurately, how it does not. She led with a personal example, describing traveling regularly to Jasper, Texas to study how the community grappled with the aftermath of James Byrd Jr’s 1998 murder by being dragged behind a pickup truck, only to learn later that Theresa Adell Ardoin was killed in remarkably similar fashion in nearby Orange County Texas during the period when Brown was working in Jasper. Adell Ardoin’s death received so little news coverage that even a researcher studying a related murder in a nearby county knew nothing.
Drawing on data from data from the deaths of Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, and Ma’Khia Bryant, Brown described a “dynamically stable” system in which advances in how journalists cover police violence against Black women are balanced against regressions and backlash, and the need for ongoing changes to media practices in how they cover these stories. It’s very much worth a listen.
Recent publications and appearances
“If you’re following politics, you don’t have to choose between Slate, Atlantic or Vox. If you just go on Twitter, you are likely to find the most appealing articles from those publications.” Shannon McGregor spoke to the Washington Post about how Twitter became the media of the American left.
📘 “Petre’s book reveals the scope of the problem, while also encouraging us to view commercial journalism’s crisis as an opportunity to create something entirely different.” CITAP Affiliate Caitlin Petre’s new book All the News That’s Fit to Click is getting rave reviews!
Ever wished you could audit a course with Tressie McMillan Cottom? She shared a peek into a recent class discussion on Twitter so the rest of us can follow along with what she’s teaching and thinking about:
November 4: Nikki Usher will deliver a talk about her new book “News for the Rich, White, and Blue” as part of the Hussman Media Justice series, co-sponsored by CITAP.
Rest of Web
If you’d like to read the entire Facebook Papers coverage, Tech Policy Press is keeping up a full anthology of stories.
And in case you missed it in the wave of Facebook-centric stories: Google’s efforts to close other players out of the digital ad market is now subject to an antitrust lawsuit filed by 10 state attorneys general.