A former Google consultant has blasted Facebook for ‘putting people before profit’ after damning reports emerged the company ignored warnings that it was causing harm by promoting divisive content and damaging teenage girls’ mental health.
Joe Toscano, who appeared in the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which examines the negative effects of Big Tech, told Fox News: ‘The reality is Facebook’s just doing business as usual, right?
‘What’s Facebook’s product? We always got to keep going back to that. What’s their product? The reality is their product is outrage, its scandal, its sex. It’s anything that will get you to click.’
Internal documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal indicate that Facebook employees were worried that a 2018 algorithm promoted content that made users angrier and more likely to argue about politics or race instead of what it was aimed at doing – strengthening relationships between family and friends.
The internal memos seen by the Journal also indicated that Facebook officials were made aware that Instagram was toxic for young girls who struggled with body image issues.
It warned that among teens who felt suicidal, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced their suicidal feelings to Instagram.
Facebook was also found to have been running a secret ‘whitelist’ which shielded celebrities, politicians, and other VIPs from enforcement of its guidelines even if they spread harmful and malicious content that would get others banned.
Joe Toscano slammed Facebook for putting for ‘putting people before profit’ following the release of damning internal reports
Toscano said he is not shocked by the internal reports, ‘The reality is their product is outrage, its scandal, its sex. It’s anything that will get you to click’
The Wall Street Journal obtained memos on Facebook’s algorithm overhaul of 2018
The algorithm, which was introduced in 2018 after internal data showed a decline in user engagement, gave people incentive to post negative comments that sparked a reaction and debate.
The report, ‘Facebook Says Its Rules Apply to All. Company Documents Reveal a Secret Elite That’s Exempt,’ mentioned a program called XCheck- or cross check- which allowed prominent users to break the platform’s rules. As of last year, there were 5.8 million Facebook users covered by XCheck.
If a VIP is believed to have violated the rules, their posts aren’t removed immediately but are instead sent to a separate system staffed by better-trained employees who then further review the content.
‘What they’re doing here is they’re identifying the people who they know to be driving the most eyeballs to their platform and henceforth driving them the most money and they’re giving them a pass to say, ‘Hey, you know what, what you’re doing is not right according to our rules, but you’re making us a lot of money and you have the potential to make us a lot more money. So we’re going to let it slide, but just let you know this wasn’t right,’ Toscano said. ‘It doesn’t shock me at all.’
Although the report has been met with public upset, Toscano doesn’t think Facebook will change without pressure from the government.
Who is Joe Toscano?
Ex-Google consultant Joe Toscano
Joe Toscano is an outspoken critic of big tech companies and appeared in the bombshell documentary The Social Dilemma.
The Netflix documentary features a series of top tech experts issuing stark warnings about the addictive qualities of social media, how it is designed to keep users coming back for more and manipulates emotion.
Toscano co-founded the Better Ethics and Consumer Outcomes Network (BEACON) organization which works to make ‘the internet better for business and society.’
He is planning to launch Pule Policy later this year, which aims to help people protect their online data
‘The best guess for me is they’re going to change the name internally and continue to hide things,’ he said. ‘I just don’t think it’s going to change.’
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone admitted to having a cross-check process which he described simply as a ‘second layer of review.’
‘In the end, at the center of this story is Facebook’s own analysis that we need to improve the program,’ Stone said. ‘We know our enforcement is not perfect and there are tradeoffs between speed and accuracy.’
He concluded, ‘The WSJ piece repeatedly cites Facebook’s own documents pointing to the need for changes that are in fact already underway at the company. We have new teams, new resources and an overhaul of the process that is an existing work-stream at Facebook.’
But Toscano was not dissuaded by his belief of Facebook’s ‘double-standard’ which allows the company to profit.
‘I mean, yeah, they have double layers. Obviously, what they’re saying right there is that they have double standards. Why does my post as someone who’s not famous, who doesn’t have money, why does my post not get the double standard there?
‘Because I’m not driving them as much money as some of these celebrities or some of these politicians. That’s the reality, it’s a double standard… treat everyone equally. I think it’s pretty simple,’ Toscano said.
The leaked research also reveals that since at least 2019, Facebook has been warned that Instagram harms young girls’ body image.
One message posted on an internal message board in March 2020 said the app revealed that 32 percent of girls said Instagram made them feel worse about their bodies if they were already having insecurities.
Another slide, from a 2019 presentation, said: ‘We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.
‘Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.’
The research not only reaffirms what has been publicly acknowledged for years – that Instagram can harm a person’s body image, especially if that person is young – but it confirms that Facebook management knew as much and was actively researching it.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly resisted making changes to the social network’s algorithm ignoring engineers’ warnings that it was promoting divisive content and damaging the public’s mental health
Facebook has a secret program in place that allows celebrities and powerful people to skirt the social network’s own rules, according to a bombshell report
‘They’re harming us. They’re harming our communities. If this was Volvo and their seat belts weren’t working, we wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, yeah, Volvo. Keep making those cars.’ Volvo would have a recall. They wouldn’t have those cars on the market until they fixed it,’ Toscano said about Facebook’s continued harm to public health.
‘Why are we allowing this company to do anything differently? Why are they not shut down temporarily until they figure out how to fix this? You know, this is more than just the seatbelt issue,’ Toscano insisted.
‘This is catastrophic. You’re causing depression, suicide, lifelong impacts on these children…how are we allowing this?’
Instagram’s head of public policy, Karina Newton, echoed Stone’s statement. She said that the internal company documents reveal the company’s ‘commitment to understanding complex and difficult issues young people may struggle with, and informs all the work’ Instagram does ‘to help those experiencing these issues.’
‘We’re proud that our app can give voice to those who have been marginalized, that it can help friends and families stay connected from all corners of the world, that it can prompt societal change; but we also know it can be a place where people have negative experiences, as the Journal called out today.’
Some of the research Facebook was shown last March showing how Instagram is harming young people
THE DATA FACEBOOK WAS SHOWN ON HOW INSTAGRAM HARMED YOUNG GIRLS AND BOYS
Question of the things you’ve felt in the last month, did any of them start on Instagram? Select all that apply
Don’t have enough money
Don’t have enough friends
Down, sad or depressed
Wanted to kill themselves
Wanted to hurt themselves
Question: In general, how has Instagram affected the way you feel about yourself, your mental health?
US boys and girls: 3%
US boys: 2%
US girls: 3%
UK total: 2%
UK boys: 1%
UK girls: 2%
US total: 16%
US Boys 12%
US girls: 18%
UK total: 19%
UK boys: 13%
UK girls: 23%
US total: 41%
US boys: 37%
US girls: 43%
UK total: 46%
UK boys: 50%
UK girls: 44%
US total: 29%
US boys: 32%
US girls: 29%
UK total: 28%
UK boys: 31%
UK girls: 26%
US total: 12%
US boys: 18%
US girls 8%
UK total: 5%
UK boys: 5%
UK girls: 4%