A Facebook manager has stated that the company “can’t guarantee” that social media is good for democracy but claims that they are working on improving their platform.
Reuters reports that a blog post from Facebook Product Manager Samidh Chakrabarti has questioned the role of social media in a modern democracy. The post is part of a series of blogs from Facebook about the website’s role in the democratic process. Chakrabarti said in his blog post, “I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives, but I can‘t,” he continued to say that Facebook has a “moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible.”
Chakrabarti went on to state his belief that Facebook was used by Russian agents to influence the 2016 election and expressed his regret that more was not done to prevent this. He further stated that Facebook was attempting to make amends for their past failures by disabling suspected bot accounts, requiring those purchasing election ads to confirm their identities, and employing a number of other safeguards in an attempt to prevent foreign influence during elections.
Chakrabarti promised to be more transparent in Facebook’s future efforts saying, “…we’re committed to this issue of transparency because it goes beyond Russia. Without transparency, it can be hard to hold politicians accountable for their own words. Micro-targeting can enable dishonest campaigns to spread toxic discourse without much consequence. Democracy then suffers because we don’t get the full picture of what our leaders are promising us. This is an even more pernicious problem than foreign interference. But we hope that by setting a new bar for transparency, we can tackle both of these challenges simultaneously.”
Chakrabarti finished his post saying, “This is a new frontier and we don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I promise you that my team and many more here are dedicated to this pursuit. We’ll share what we learn and collaborate with you to find the answers. What gives me hope is that the same ingenuity that helped make social media an incredible way to connect with friends can also be applied to making it an effective way to connect with the public square.”
Chakrabarti had less to say about Facebook’s own decisions that effect elections, such as the newsfeed change “experiment” in six countries, including Cambodia before its election.
Read Chakrabarti’s post in full here.