Facebook is too huge to rule itself.

In this article, the author talks about the problems that threaten Facebook. The growth and development of a social network makes it difficult for its administrators to control the production and distribution of user-generated content. This situation is fraught with an increase in the number of problems with regulatory authorities. The author of the article draws a parallel with the social network Myspace, which, due to uncontrollable user behavior, has come under pressure from the authorities and by 2011 has completely spoiled its reputation.

In December 2008, Lindsay Ronson tried to log in to her Facebook account with a new password, which she recently updated due to the large number of attempts to hack into her page. In response, she received a message that the account was disabled .

Not knowing what to do, she turned to the question and answer section of the social network and a few clicks later found out that her account was blocked due to a violation of the Facebook user agreement, and the provision of an invalid name was indicated as the reason for blocking.

Lindsay Ronson, also known as Lindsay Lohan , decided to share this incident with the public by talking about it on Myspace.

There, she said that she had to specify a made-up name, because Facebook simply did not allow her to register under real due to the large number of attempts to create similar fake profiles by other people. She admitted that she simply did not find a way out better than using the name of her partner, Samantha Ronson, in order to be able to share the news of herself with her real friends on Facebook.

Ultimately, her account was restored by Facebook support, and according to The LA Times , continued to coexist with 14 other profiles with similar names and photos of Lohan.

Facebook fake side

On October 31, 2017, Facebook executives visited Capitol Hill for the third time, answering additional questions about the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The topic for discussion was the possibility of Russian operatives to create in the social network more than 470 fake profiles and spend 100 thousand dollars to buy 3 thousand ad units promoting information stuffing. According to some information, the misinformation activity was carried out for two years : from June 2015 to May 2017.

The head of Facebook’s security department, in an official post on behalf of the company, acknowledged that such advertising was mainly aimed at promoting materials on acute and controversial social topics, such as arms control, immigration, rights of racial and sexual minorities, rather than explicit support for other candidate.

Citing the March report of US intelligence agencies, Time revealed the details of some tactics used by Russian operatives to distribute fake materials on the social network. According to US intelligence officials, planning these activities took as long as five years.

For example, the publication reported that the Russian male soldier effectively presented himself as a 42-year-old American housewife for recruiting subscribers and then distributing messages at the height of the American elections on political issues that found real support and gained a lot of repost. Just the other day, The Wall Street Journal reported that the activities of only 6 out of 470 fake accounts, to which we have just described, led to the generation of 340 million reposts and mentions. In total, these 470 profiles spread a large amount of viral content, which received a huge number of views in a specified time period.

In September 2017, Facebook announced intentions to thoroughly review its policy of disclosing data on sponsors of political advertising campaigns and hiring 1 thousand additional employees to oversee this process.

But the main question is, is it too late for Facebook to take up the consequences.

In general, it is not even clear whether the company correctly identified the root cause of events whose consequences it is trying to correct, because in fact the root of all problems lies in the fact that Facebook has essentially become an unregulated platform , 45% of users - or two thirds of all Americans - by their own admission use it as a source of news and information.

However, we will not expand discussions on the political, social or moral aspects of the dissemination of misinformation in social networks.

Instead, let's take a closer look at the situation from the point of view of platform management and draw conclusions from it in this context.

Contradictions between approaches to monetization, investors' expectations, trust of eminent users and other most interested ecosystem participants are inevitable, and for a large ecosystem like Facebook, it is vital to learn to find a compromise before the government comes and starts to tell how it should be arranged .

Righteous way to control the platform

From the very beginning of its launch in 2004, Facebook positioned itself as an open platform for the free exchange of information between users, which soon found a way to monetize, having adjusted the display of paid ads.

Facebook has always positioned its platform as a trusted, safe and secure place where friends can come to tell each other news, share photos and moments from life.

And taking into account what was happening at that time on Myspace, the new social network, which is gaining popularity, most certainly wanted advertisers to consider it reliable, secure and trustworthy in terms of posting information about their brands.

And Facebook has taken a number of measures to establish itself in this way.

He demanded that users provide genuine information about their identities as a measure against counterfeit accounts that filled the Myspace competitor's website in those years. This measure also gave users the opportunity to decide who they would like to see as participants in their individual social network segment and which of these people could see their news in their stream.

Facebook has developed a rigorous content monitoring process that allows you to filter out pornography and content that is inappropriate content. Users could mark inappropriate or offensive content. Facebook moderators monitored the site for similar violations and blocked such information. And besides, if one user ceased to like the content of another, then he could block it, no longer receive notifications from him, or even remove it from friends.

But as the advertising wrapper more tightly covered all the elements of the social network, the Facebook news feed soon filled with advertising, which was targeted by user interests and demographic criteria. The more popular were the ad units, most of which acquired the form of video and content, the more often they and similar promotional offers appeared in tapes from other users.

The successful transition to the mobile format has turned the news feed into a central element of user experience, so important that today, 1.3 billion social network users spend an average of 35 minutes a day in it . This combination of mobile format, ads and content in the tape has become the main driver of growth in profits from mobile advertising and the cost of the platform as a whole.

In the past quarter, Facebook reported that mobile advertising revenue accounted for 87% of the company's total advertising revenue — 3% more than in the previous year. A Needham & Company analyst even described Facebook and its Instagram , WhatsApp and Messenger as a “monopolist of mobile advertising.” Other experts are less categorical and call the platform with 2 billion users worldwide and 516 billion market capitalization an “ outstanding success story .” The day after the announcement of the financial indicators for the second quarter, the company's shares were worth 7% more than at the opening of the trading day.

During the announcement of financial performance on Facebook, it was also recognized that the advertising space in the news feed was approaching its reasonable reasonable limit, as a result of which the company intensifies its attempts to find new ways to monetize WhatsApp and Messenger.

However, bringing these platforms to the level of such a giant as Facebook News Feed is a long history and therefore in the present and foreseeable future the news feed will remain the main element that forms the majority of the company's profits.

Tough times for news feeds

Creating fake Facebook accounts is nothing new.

In documents filed by Facebook for registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission in August 2012, 4 months after its IPO, the company reported that about 9% of Facebook profiles (83 of 955 million active users) are fake accounts identified as violate user policies, duplicate other users, or misclassified. Investors immediately expressed concern that such deviations lead to an overestimation of the audience coverage and, accordingly, the potential benefits of the advertising platform. As a result, Facebook shares fell below $ 20 apiece, and began to cost half the price of $ 38 for which they were offered at an IPO. Facebook has deleted these 83 million accounts.

Five years have passed since then, and already this year after evidence appeared in favor of intervening in American elections with fake accounts, Facebook announced the removal of tens of thousands of similar profiles before elections in Germany and 30 thousand accounts before elections in France.

Frauds with the substitution of links and the change of headlines after the publication of the material also did not appear yesterday.

In September 2011, an article appeared on Search Engine Watch , offering clear, step-by-step instructions on how to create news ducks on Facebook using real information sources and their logos. In particular, it included comic examples, with innocuous headlines invented “for the sake of fun.” For example, the message that the company was knighted for being cool, looking as if you were heading for a real informational publication.

Years later, those wishing to spread misinformation on topics close to the elections took advantage of this technique.

In July 2017, Facebook removed a preview of the links , and the substitution of headlines became impossible. Only accredited publishers can access this feature.

In mid-October, Facebook executive director Cheryl Sandberg promised lawmakers that the company would provide Congress with full assistance in investigating the situation with Russia's alleged interference in the US presidential election. After testifying, Sandberg also emphasized the importance of maintaining Facebook’s current status as an “open and free platform,” stating that “providing the opportunity for self-expression is one of the main obligations that an open platform brings to its users.” In addition, she added that "Facebook does not check the information posted by users before it appears on the platform."

However, in fact, this practice exists.

In a social network it is still impossible to publish pornography. Remember the resentment at the removal of the Napalm in Vietnam landmark snapshot of the Vietnam War last September? Facebook eventually changed its position on this issue and lifted the restriction on publishing a snapshot after social network users and the general public as a whole forced a social network to allow the world to see an important historical frame.

The most surprising thing in this situation is that the site, which so successfully prevents any attempts to publish nude, has failed to cope with a number of other cases of abuse of its functionality.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, probably in an attempt to get ahead of any decisions to regulate the platform, announced that his company would take a series of measures to ensure “greater transparency” around political ads on the platform. As some steps, he called an open indication of their affiliation to the political theme and the requirement to disclose the identity of their sponsor - an approach that is very similar to how such advertising is served on television and radio.

It is not clear, however, whether the legislators will be satisfied with voluntary concessions. Many people still want to know why finding a problem that had been felt for two years took so much time from the company, and why the response was taken only when the testimony grows like a snowball, causing no doubts that the social platform was involved in the dissemination of the fake news created by Russians.

The law on fair advertising, which is currently being actively discussed within the walls of the Congress and received the support of both parties, obliges social networks to demand the disclosure of the political background of any advertising. But as it turned out, being applicable to obviously political content, in its current form, it does not provide any methods at all to deal with defiant posts of real people, nor with provocative materials published by fake accounts whose owners, like the above real example with the Russian soldier , impersonate ordinary housewives, gaining many followers and thus carry out mass information processing.

It should also be taken into account that, according to American intelligence, plans to manipulate the electorate have been bearing for five years.

Lawmakers in the United States and around the world as one took very similar positions on this issue and began to wonder about the unregulated nature of platforms as large as Facebook, which daily attract an audience of 1.32 billion people, where anyone can create at any time or restrictions to distribute this or that post, the removal of which from the publication will be possible not earlier than it will be read by many millions of people.

And as Facebook has already argued, when there is a desire to eliminate unfavorable or dubious content, there are ways to achieve this.

In the light of all these events, a reasonable question arises: whether Facebook, in the absence of public and political pressure, will also quickly solve platform management problems, which, he seems to have lost sight of in its attempts to grow to its current scale.

This lesson was once forced to learn Myspace, which is then Facebook's competition, in a very rigid form.

Myspace was also founded as an open platform for the expression of musicians and other artists. But over time, on the platform, various kinds of obscene, often even pornographic, content became available. The possibility of providing false information was widely used to conceal one’s real identity. Trying to save advertising revenue, the platform allowed publishing virtually any content , which led to degradation and obtaining the stigma of the “ digital ghetto ”.

So the ecosystem, which in 2006 was the largest social network in the world, was sold in 2011 for only $ 35 million.

But it was not at all the pressure of state attorneys general that in the mid-2000s led to its closure. A crucial role in this process was played on the one hand by the loss of user confidence in the network and its inability to put their interests first, and on the other, by a competitor that appeared at that moment called Facebook.

The problem that Facebook faced today is in fact not far from the situation of “too big and too loudly falling” when regulators give the largest banks a second chance in the event of their bankruptcy, since its consequences may be too serious. But in the case of Facebook, this situation can be called "too big with a 2 billion and growing user base and too complicated to even know where to start the regulation."

Therefore, in this story, Facebook will need to find a way to take a step back and gather into a fist all its managerial magic, which once helped him to stand out against the background of Myspace. And this should be done before the state bodies of different countries show the company how to do it. Such measures, although they require considerable effort from Facebook, will still prove to be better than government intervention, which threatens to change the basic values ​​of the platform, and hinder its ability to innovate.

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/408435/

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