I mean, what else was there than the #FacebookPapers? I found a few: NYT is building a bigger newsroom in the UK, Comscore wants to lead how we count audience, Nieman has compiled 500 replies on why people cancel their news subscriptions, and Biden makes his FCC picks. Also taking heat, the WSJ publishes a Letter to the Editor from former President Trump full of debunked claims. The journalism community presses for fact-checking as WSJ pushes the boundaries of the traditional letter. Below are a dozen of the top Facebook stories this week. It’s pretty meta.
Happy scary weekend,
Cancel culture: Why do people cancel news subscriptions? - Nieman Lab
Worth your time: Survey of 500 Nieman Lab readers on why they canceled news subscriptions: 31% due to money, 30% due to ideology, 13% because content wasn't satisfactory.
All 500 Reasons People Unsubscribed, by publication - Nieman Lab
Expensive, boring, and wrong: Here are all the news publications people canceled and why: From AdAge to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. You can read all the comments here. Don’t miss the NYT and WSJ reasons.
Building the Path Forward for the Future of Measurement - Comscore
The marketplace is no longer willing to settle for a measurement source that relies on small panels to drive decision-making for a multi-billion-dollar industry. Rather, the appeal of the future is a transparent path built on a stable, reliable methodology and a foundation of proven technology, which captures the shift change of modern viewership consumption. Comscore is proud to have pioneered modern technology powering the future of media measurement.
Biden picks his broadband vanguard at FCC and Commerce Department- Politico
President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his plans to tap acting Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel as the agency's permanent chief, ending months of cliffhanger drama about the choice.
Biden bundled the long-awaited announcement with his decisions to nominate veteran public interest heavyweights Gigi Sohn for the sole open FCC commissioner seat and Alan Davidson to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a key telecom policy role in the Commerce Department.
NYT Expands in Britain - The New Statesman
But the expansion, underwritten by revenues that flow from a still-growing subscriber base of over eight million, will not excite the paper’s UK media rivals, especially those that have slated the NYT for its alleged sneering and unfair portrayal of post-Brexit Britain. Its UK coverage has been derided as “delusional” (Telegraph), “unrelentingly negative” (Spectator) and “a dystopian caricature” (Times).
Yardley rebuts these criticisms. “We are extremely proud of the groundbreaking reporting that we’ve done in the United Kingdom. Our work is deeply reported, intended to serve the public and hold the government to account. Our duty is to our readers.”
The Moral Chasm Between Left and Right Is Widening - NYT OpEd
There has been a remarkable erosion in public tolerance of “offensive expression about race, gender and religion,” according to a paper Dennis Chong and Morris Levy, political scientists at the University of Southern California, and Jack Citrin, a political scientist at Berkeley, presented in September at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.
“Tolerance has declined overall,” they add, particularly “for a category of speech that is considered unworthy of First Amendment protection because it violates the goal of equality.”
WSJ's editorial board defends publishing a letter from Trump - WSJ
Saying Trump is making election rigging claims elsewhere, so “we hardly did him a special favor”. Are you sure? For clarity, most OpEds in major dailies are often cut to less than 800 words and thoroughly fact-checked.
Now for THE FACEBOOK PAPERS
A dozen stories from CNN, NYT, The Atlantic, WSJ, WashPo, WGBH and more
The Metaverse Is Mark Zuckerberg’s Escape Hatch - NYT
As with most of Facebook’s strategy announcements, Thursday’s rebranding formalized a shift that has been underway for years. The company already has more than 10,000 people working on augmented and virtual reality projects in its Reality Labs division — roughly twice as many people as are on Twitter’s entire staff — and has said it plans to hire 10,000 more in Europe soon. Earlier this week, the company announced that it would spend about $10 billion on metaverse-related investments this year, and it has been acquiring V.R. start-ups in what could amount to a metaverse land grab.
A metaverse strategy, if it worked, could finally get Facebook out from under Apple’s and Google’s thumbs by steering users to Facebook-owned platforms like Oculus, where it doesn’t need to worry about getting kicked out of the app store for snooping on users’ activity or aiding the illegal trafficking of domestic workers. And it would mean that if Facebook wanted to charge for, say, virtual clothing inside one of its metaverse apps, it could do so without paying a 30 percent fee to a rival. (On Thursday, Mr. Zuckerberg obliquely criticized Apple and Google, saying their gatekeeping of the mobile app ecosystem was “stifling innovation, stopping people from building new things, and holding back the entire internet economy.”)
Mark Zuckerberg will be added to a Facebook privacy lawsuit - NYT
The attorney general for the District of Columbia on Wednesday added Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, to a consumer protection lawsuit, in one of the first efforts by a regulator to expose him personally to potential financial and other penalties.
Beyond Zuckerberg - Kara Swisher, NYT
Let’s just cut to the chase: Who’s going to replace Mark Zuckerberg as C.E.O. of Facebook? Before you go, “Whoa there, Kara,” let me just say that the horse is already out of the barn, whether the famed entrepreneur knows it yet or not.
He is not going to go in quite the same way that we’re used to seeing leaders exit the stage — up and then out. Because of his controlling stock, Zuckerberg will continue to wield all the real power at Facebook for as long as he wants. But the era of his being the adored dear leader and cultural touchstone at the company is effectively over.
The person who I think is unlikely to take over is the current C.O.O., Sheryl Sandberg, who, after a stellar upward trajectory for most of her career, has also become tainted. As Zuckerberg’s longtime No. 2, she’s the Icarus of Facebook. Putting her in the main seat will not fix what’s broken at the company or signal to a now impatient line of regulators that Facebook is ready to change. A restructuring would be an opportunity for her to exit quietly with some grace.
Facebook is having a tougher time managing vaccine misinformation than it is letting on, leaks suggest - CNN Business
"We have no idea about the scale of the [Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy] problem when it comes to comments," an internal research report posted to Facebook's internal site in February 2021, a year into the pandemic, noted. "Our internal systems are not yet identifying, demoting, and/or removing anti-vaccine comments often enough," the report pointed out.
Additional reports a month later raised concerns about the prevalence of vaccine hesitancy — which in some cases may amount to misinformation — in comments, which employees said Facebook's systems were less equipped to moderate than posts. "Our ability to detect vaccine hesitancy comments is bad in English and basically non-existent elsewhere," one of March 2021 reports stated.
The Depths Of Facebook’s Depravity - WGBH
No one can possibly keep up with everything we’ve learned about Facebook — and, let’s face it, not all that much of it is new except for the revelations that Facebook executives were well aware of what their critics have been saying for years. How did they know? Their own employees told them and begged them to do something about it to no avail.
If it’s possible to summarize, the meta-critique is that, no matter what the issue, Facebook’s algorithms boost content that enrages, polarizes, and even depresses its users — and that Zuckerberg and company simply won’t take the steps that are needed to lower the volume, since that might result in lower profits as well. This is the case across the board, from self-esteem among teenage girls to the Jan. 6 insurrection, from COVID disinformation to factional violence in other countries.
America on Fire: Facebook Watched as Trump Ignited Hate - AP
The reports of hateful and violent posts on Facebook started pouring in on the night of May 28 last year, soon after then-President Donald Trump sent a warning on social media that looters in Minneapolis would be shot.
But it wasn’t until after Trump posted about Floyd’s death that the reports of violence and hate speech increased “rapidly” on Facebook across the country, internal company analysis of the ex-president’s social media post reveals.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd and I won’t let that happen,” Trump wrote at 9:53 a.m. on May 28 from his Twitter and Facebook accounts. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts the shooting starts!”
Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation - WashPo
Facebook engineers gave extra value to emoji reactions, including ‘angry,’ pushing more emotional and provocative content into users’ news feeds.
That means Facebook for three years systematically amped up some of the worst of its platform, making it more prominent in users’ feeds and spreading it to a much wider audience. The power of the algorithmic promotion undermined the efforts of Facebook’s content moderators and integrity teams, who were fighting an uphill battle against toxic and harmful content.
An algorithm such as Facebook’s, which relies on sophisticated, opaque machine-learning techniques to generate its engagement predictions, “can sound mysterious and menacing,” said Noah Giansiracusa, a math professor at Bentley University in Massachusetts and author of the book “How Algorithms Create and Prevent Fake News.” “But at the end of the day, there’s one number that gets predicted — one output. And a human is deciding what that number is.”
The warning proved prescient. The company’s data scientists confirmed in 2019 that posts that sparked angry reaction emoji were disproportionately likely to include misinformation, toxicity, and low-quality news.
Poland: A ‘social civil war’ brewed as Facebook rewarded online anger - WashPo
An independent data analysis of major political parties in Poland that was conducted for The Post showed that after 2018, negative messages were more likely to receive a high number of shares.
In one April 2019 document detailing a research trip to the European Union, a Facebook team reported feedback from European politicians that an algorithm change the previous year — billed by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg as an effort to foster more “meaningful” interactions on the platform — had changed politics “for the worse.”
The Facebook team reported back specific concerns from Poland, where political parties had described a “social civil war” online. Such worries have prompted reviews by regulators and lawmakers across the continent, including proposals at the European Parliament to force more transparency from Silicon Valley’s tech giants.
Facebook fights to claw back 'inadvertent' release of docs to class lawyers - Reuters
Lawyers for Facebook Inc want a California federal judge to force the return of dozens of documents they said were "inadvertently" shared with the plaintiffs' lawyers leading a consumer antitrust class action, an attorney for the company said in court on Tuesday.
The documents at issue in the private lawsuit are among more than 12 million pages the social media giant disclosed to the Federal Trade Commission, said Sonal Mehta, a lawyer for Facebook at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. The FTC last year sued Facebook in Washington, D.C., the federal court for alleged anticompetitive behavior.
A U.S. magistrate judge, sounding exasperated, said she wanted to hear more from the parties before deciding whether to claw back the documents.
Facebook Increasingly Suppresses Political Movements It Deems Dangerous - WSJ
After the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, far-right activists launched an online campaign to form what they called a Patriot Party as an alternative to the Republican Party.
Facebook Inc. worked to kill it, citing information it said showed the movement was being pushed by white nationalists and self-styled militias who had worked to instigate the riot, according to internal company documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Facebook engineers made it harder for organizers to share Patriot Party content, restricted the visibility of groups connected to the movement, and limited “super-inviters” from recruiting new adherents, according to a March review.
The reality is that Facebook is making decisions on an ad hoc basis, in essence playing whack-a-mole with movements it deems dangerous. By taking on the role of refereeing public discourse, Facebook has strayed from the public commitment to neutrality long espoused by Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.
HOW FACEBOOK FAILS 90 PERCENT OF ITS USERS - The Atlantic
Human Trafficking: A group of Facebook researchers focused on the Middle East and North Africa had found numerous Instagram profiles being used as advertisements for trafficked domestic servants as early as March 2018.
In fall of 2019, Facebook launched a massive effort to combat the use of its platforms for human trafficking. Working around the clock, its employees searched Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram for keywords and hashtags that promoted domestic servitude in the Middle East and elsewhere. Over the course of a few weeks, the company took down 129,191 pieces of content, disabled more than 1,000 accounts, tightened its policies, and added new ways to detect this kind of behavior. After they were through, employees congratulated one another on a job well done.
Not until October 23, 2019, did the hammer drop: Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its App Store because of the BBC report. Motivated by what employees describe in an internal document as “potentially severe consequences to the business” that would result from an App Store ban, Facebook finally kicked into high gear. The document makes clear that the decision to act was not the result of new information: “Was this issue known to Facebook before BBC enquiry and Apple escalation? Yes.”
Facebook Wrestles With the Features It Used to Define Social Networking - NYT
Likes and shares made the social media site what it is. Now, company documents show, it’s struggling to deal with their effects.
These people were effective at getting thousands to join new groups so that the communities ballooned almost overnight, the study said. Then the invite whales could spam the groups with posts promoting ethnic violence or other harmful content, according to the study.
Another 2019 report looked at how some people accrued large followings on their Facebook pages, often using posts about cute animals and other innocuous topics. But once a page had grown to tens of thousands of followers, the founders sold it. The buyers then used the pages to show followers misinformation or politically divisive content, according to the study.