Report: Facebook Targeted Users with Low ‘Digital Literacy’ Skills with Violent and Explicit Posts

Mark Zuckerberg swallows a giggle. Drew Angerer /Getty
Drew Angerer /Getty

According to a recent report, studies show that Facebook’s newsfeed algorithms targeted users with low digital literacy skills and purposefully sent them violent, disturbing, and sexually explicit content.

USA Today reports that two years ago, researchers at Facebook conducted a five-question survey that was aimed at assessing Facebook users’ digital literacy skills. The survey tested how well users understood Facebook’s app interface and online terms like “tagging” on social media.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is applauded as he delivers the opening keynote introducing new Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram privacy features at the Facebook F8 Conference at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California on April 30, 2019. AMY OSBORNE/AFP/Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg introduces Meta (Facebook)

Users received a score based on the number of questions they answered correctly and this information was then compared with the types of content Facebook’s algorithms sent to these users over a 30-day period.

Researchers discovered that the users’ scores almost exactly predicted the percentage of posts that users saw containing violence and nudity. The lower a user’s digital literacy score, the more likely they were to be served disturbing content by Facebook’s news feed. Users who got every question on the survey wrong saw 11.4 percent more nudity and 13.4 percent more graphic violence compared to users who correctly answered all questions.

One Facebook employee commented on the internal study: “This is super interesting. It’s also super sobering to realize that the ‘default’ feed experience, so to speak, includes nudity + borderline content unless otherwise controlled.”

Facebook identified vulnerable users with low digital literacy skills and conducted in-depth interviews and in-home visits with them in an attempt to understand them better. They found that the content displayed to the users in their news feeds caused them to distance themselves from Facebook for a long period of time and further exacerbated any hardships they were currently facing.

Facebook appeared to repeatedly show one middle-aged black woman posts relating to racial resentment and videos of people bullying children and killing other people. Another person who joined a Narcotics Anonymous Facebook group began receiving ads for alcoholic beverages. Another user joined a coupon and savings page and was promptly served financial scam ads.

Read more at USA Today here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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