Facebook says WSJ allegations confer ‘false motives’

Facebook on Saturday criticized the Wall Street Journal’s series of articles about the social media giant’s platforms for containing “deliberate mischaracterizations” and not telling the whole picture and said the allegations “conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees.”

Citing a review of internal documents that included research reports, online employee discussions, and draft presentations to senior management, the Wall Street Journal said that while Facebook researchers repeatedly identified “bad effects of the platform,” the company did not fix them.

The WSJ cited Facebook research that examined how Instagram has affected its teen user base over the past three years, with teenage girls being most noticeably hurt. An internal Facebook presentation said that among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to suicide to Instagram.

In another report, the WSJ reported that in the weeks before Mark Zuckerberg made his announcement of the company goal to use its formidable resources to push 50 million people toward Covid-19 vaccines, an internal memo said initial testing concluded that roughly 41% of comments on English-language vaccine-related posts risked discouraging vaccinations.

Facebook’s vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg said on Saturday in a blog post that the issues of content moderation, vaccine misinformation and well-being of teens are  complex issues. He said the series of articles published by the Wall Street Journal was based on incomplete information on difficult topics.

Clegg called “just plain false” an allegation that “Facebook conducts research and then systematically and willfully ignores it if the findings are inconvenient for the company.” “Facebook understands the significant responsibility that comes with operating a global platform,” he said. “We take it seriously, and we don’t shy away from scrutiny and criticism.” 

Clegg also defended Facebook’s handling of posts on the COVID-19 vaccine and said that the “intersection between social media and well-being” remains an evolving issue in the research community.

Written by Sophie Blake


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