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Facebook admits social media can 'corrode democracy'

For years, Facebook touted itself as a tool for connecting the world and giving every person a voice.Now the w...

Posted: Jan 22, 2018 8:11 PM
Updated: Jan 22, 2018 8:11 PM

For years, Facebook touted itself as a tool for connecting the world and giving every person a voice.

Now the world's largest social network is admitting there may be an unintended consequence to social networks: the undermining of democracy.

"At its best, [social media] allows us to express ourselves and take action," Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook's product manager for civic engagement, wrote in a blog post Monday. "At its worst, it allows people to spread misinformation and corrode democracy."

Chakrabarti added: "I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives, but I can't."

The startling comments are part of a new series of blog posts from Facebook executives and outside experts about the impact of social media on democracy. They come amid a wave of concerns from lawmakers, voters and tech industry employees about the damage done to societies by Facebook and other massive online platforms.

Since the 2016 U.S. election, there has been a steady drumbeat of damaging headlines about fake news, polarizing filter bubbles and Russian propaganda campaigns on Facebook as well as Twitter and Google's YouTube.

"From the Arab Spring to robust elections around the globe, social media seemed like a positive," Katie Harbath, Facebook's global politics and government outreach director, wrote in a separate blog post Monday. "The last US presidential campaign changed that."

Harbath cited "foreign interference that Facebook should have been quicker to identify" as well as "the rise of 'fake news' and echo chambers." Chakrabarti also said Facebook was "far too slow to recognize how bad actors were abusing our platform."

Related: Silicon Valley's 'gut-wrenching' year confronting its dark side

Facebook is facing pressure to prove it can do better. Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google were called to testify before Congress for several hearings on propaganda and misinformation last year.

"I don't think you get it," Sen. Diane Feinstein, a Democrat representing Facebook's home state of California, told the tech executives at one hearing in November. "What we're talking about is a cataclysmic change. What we're talking about is the beginning of cyber warfare... You have a huge problem on your hands."

The unrelenting criticism has prompted what can only be described as a months-long apology tour from current and former Facebook executives, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

In a remarkably candid post for Yom Kippur last year, Zuckerberg apologized for "the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together."

Zuckerberg said this month his personal goal for 2018 is "fixing" Facebook's many existential problems, including "defending against interference by nation states."

To that end, Facebook recently announced plans to prioritize articles in its News Feed from news organizations that it deems more "trustworthy," based on surveys of its users.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 455783

Reported Deaths: 6166
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin945441502
Ramsey40698749
Dakota33623354
Anoka31398368
Washington20579237
Stearns18111190
St. Louis14006251
Scott1221199
Wright11811107
Olmsted1083075
Sherburne831270
Carver705639
Clay660684
Rice624774
Kandiyohi558772
Blue Earth549533
Crow Wing490678
Otter Tail464968
Chisago460438
Benton423788
Winona394948
Douglas379766
Nobles374847
Mower374429
Goodhue358163
Polk330760
McLeod328647
Beltrami316148
Morrison314645
Lyon306139
Becker289439
Itasca287843
Isanti286143
Carlton284443
Steele279510
Pine270515
Freeborn254723
Todd233730
Nicollet230538
Brown218634
Mille Lacs215745
Le Sueur214416
Cass210824
Meeker201533
Waseca193316
Wabasha17483
Martin172026
Roseau166517
Hubbard151138
Redwood141327
Houston140314
Dodge13974
Renville138540
Chippewa133232
Cottonwood129118
Fillmore12778
Wadena120818
Rock112012
Aitkin111533
Faribault110116
Sibley11017
Watonwan10698
Pennington101016
Kanabec99818
Pipestone97223
Yellow Medicine95016
Murray9137
Jackson87310
Swift84718
Pope7485
Stevens7078
Marshall70415
Clearwater68814
Lake66415
Lac qui Parle66116
Wilkin63510
Koochiching60810
Lincoln4912
Big Stone4703
Unassigned43968
Grant4388
Norman4268
Mahnomen4167
Kittson37420
Red Lake3204
Traverse2623
Lake of the Woods1981
Cook1160

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312194

Reported Deaths: 4433
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46975465
Linn18114279
Scott15900172
Black Hawk14123243
Woodbury13145181
Johnson1231752
Dubuque11651159
Pottawattamie9182115
Dallas910872
Story883538
Cerro Gordo474372
Webster473377
Warren461539
Sioux460457
Clinton459168
Marshall432262
Buena Vista397230
Muscatine396578
Des Moines395543
Plymouth353670
Wapello351798
Jasper333359
Lee326932
Marion310853
Jones275250
Henry269131
Carroll258934
Bremer250448
Crawford235824
Washington224133
Boone223517
Benton213950
Mahaska198637
Jackson195332
Tama190959
Dickinson189229
Kossuth180944
Delaware176536
Clay173021
Wright167624
Fayette166324
Hamilton162530
Buchanan162324
Winneshiek161020
Harrison158762
Hardin157831
Cedar155819
Clayton153949
Butler152324
Page148115
Floyd141936
Cherokee140327
Mills138517
Lyon137933
Poweshiek135424
Hancock132424
Allamakee131530
Iowa128022
Madison124210
Calhoun12379
Grundy122828
Jefferson122425
Winnebago122329
Mitchell117137
Louisa116430
Cass115343
Chickasaw113812
Appanoose113040
Sac112815
Union111723
Emmet111332
Humboldt107819
Shelby106427
Guthrie104624
Franklin103618
Unassigned10210
Palo Alto92611
Montgomery89224
Keokuk86426
Howard85919
Monroe82620
Clarke8199
Pocahontas78711
Ida76430
Davis70421
Adair69720
Greene6977
Monona68418
Lucas66910
Osceola65011
Worth6224
Taylor6009
Fremont5276
Van Buren50515
Decatur4994
Ringgold45511
Audubon4258
Wayne42021
Adams3023
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