Mark in the Middle
September 24, 2020 1:52 PM   Subscribe

“One of the things that we talk about a little bit less inside the company is that ... the community we serve tends to be, on average, ideologically a little bit more conservative than our employee base,” Zuckerberg said. “Maybe ‘a little’ is an understatement. … If we want to actually do a good job of serving people, [we have to take] into account that there are different views on different things, and that if someone disagrees with a view, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re hateful or have bad intent.” [SLTheVerge]
posted by fedward (30 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I thought for a bit how I might try to frame this and include context, but there's so much in the article that I think trying to frame it might be doing it a disfavor. I will admit I did feel some fair skinned solidarity with Zuckerberg's pro-sunscreen stance, though.
posted by fedward at 1:57 PM on September 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


So FB users trend conservative?
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:07 PM on September 24, 2020


So FB users trend conservative?

Or Americans do. It's not like FaceBook banned NextDoor users or something.
posted by pwnguin at 2:22 PM on September 24, 2020


So FB users trend conservative?

Very conservative, yes. Look at https://twitter.com/FacebooksTop10 for daily lists of what's being shared. It's nearly all GOP propaganda.
posted by riotnrrd at 2:23 PM on September 24, 2020 [15 favorites]


In the US, at least, Facebook users trend conservative. The two next paragraphs after the one I quoted are:
For Zuckerberg, the conservatism of his American user base had become more than a source of friction with his employees — it had also become a customer service issue. The No. 1 complaint that Facebook receives from its users is that the company removes too many of their posts, he said, for reasons that they often interpret as being politically motivated.

“I want to make sure that people here recognize that the majority of the negative sentiment that we have faced, measured by write-ins from our community, is actually generally coming from more conservative-leaning folks who are concerned about censorship,” Zuckerberg would tell employees later in the summer.
There's corresponding audio for the latter paragraph.

One of the issues brought up in the article is the contrast between the employee base (which leans liberal) and the company's profit-making desire to avoid taking political stands, which is rightly referred to as "The View from Nowhere." There's also an extended section about Facebook's internal civil rights audit and employee reaction:
But after a half-hour of discussion, some employees were growing restless. I’m hearing a lot of defending the actions we’ve taken rather than discussing the outcomes of the report and what changes we’ll be making to overcome them, one employee had posted during the talk, in a comment that an executive on the call, Ashley Finch, noted was “getting a lot of traction.”

Finch, a director of strategic initiatives at Facebook who helped to oversee the audit, called it “a really fair question.” She said the audit itself covered many actions Facebook had already taken and urged employees to read it and take action.

“If everyone could please, please, please engage with the audit report themselves ... let’s really figure out where that daylight is between what the auditors are asking and what we’re doing,” she said. “Let’s integrate these recommendations into our roadmaps …. you know, as long as they fit strategically with what we’re trying to do.”
What they're trying to do is, y'know, make money.
posted by fedward at 2:27 PM on September 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


“I’m not sure if I’m missing something from this question,” Zuckerberg responded, in polite disbelief, “but I certainly haven’t seen any data that suggests that free food is anywhere near the list of primary reasons that people come to work at this company. I hope it’s not."

They came for the freebies and money Mark. If you're lucky they're amoral profiteers; if they actually believed in the company's effect on the world, you hired a bunch of white supremacists.
posted by benzenedream at 2:47 PM on September 24, 2020 [29 favorites]


“I want to make sure that people here recognize that the majority of the negative sentiment that we have faced, measured by write-ins from our community, is actually generally coming from more conservative-leaning folks who are concerned about censorship,”

I have to wonder who is more likely to complain to the company, and why that's the metric he chooses.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 2:51 PM on September 24, 2020 [6 favorites]


I think Facebook the company and Zuckerberg the person have separate, but aligned, interest in finding the path least likely to offend the largest number of people. For Facebook the company it's about profit, because offending fewer people correlates directly with having a higher number of engaged users spending more time engaged with Facebook products, and that's how they make money. I think Mark Zuckerberg personally just wants to be liked, or at least not hated. That works in his favor as founder, CEO, and spokesman for Facebook, but it also works in favor of Mark Zuckerberg, Real Human Boy.

I think the article, and the multiple excerpts from recordings, are interesting because of the contrast between the company's profit motive and its own employees taking issue with its implicit moral stance. Facebook has tried very hard to avoid making its morals explicit, and it has also tried to avoid the consequences of having to act morally whether or not its own stated policies require it. But Facebook is clearly implicated in the spread of misinformation and the organization of hate groups, and it lapses in its response when it fears that by responding too strongly it will appear to be biased against the people spreading misinformation. An apparent majority of Facebook employees feel that the company should be making its morals explicit and living up to them.

This probably won't be a positive inflection point, but we can dream.
posted by fedward at 3:36 PM on September 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


Mark Zuckerberg: Good German.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:13 PM on September 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


Look at https://twitter.com/FacebooksTop10 for daily lists of what's being shared. It's nearly all GOP propaganda.

I had to Google Dan Bongino. Why is he so popular?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:45 PM on September 24, 2020


For some more on MZ’s thoughts, the inimitable Robert Evans has just done a two-parter on his Behind The Bastards podcast, titled Mark Zuckerberg Should Be On Trial For Crimes Against Humanity: Part One, Part Two.
posted by progosk at 4:49 PM on September 24, 2020 [12 favorites]


Yeah, that twitter top 10 list pretty much says it all. I too goggled Dan Bongino, having never heard of him. Wikipedia suggests he is a total tool.
posted by Windopaene at 6:19 PM on September 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


For Facebook the company it's about profit, because offending fewer people correlates directly with having a higher number of engaged users spending more time engaged with Facebook products, and that's how they make money.

Except that offending people increases engagement - we've seen this over and over across all social media.

I think Mark Zuckerberg personally just wants to be liked, or at least not hated.

Zuckerberg wants to be unaccountable to anyone. His needs for being liked only go so far as they factor into that.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:20 PM on September 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


Bongino, 1 billion percent tool
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:23 PM on September 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


I have to wonder who is more likely to complain to the company, and why that's the metric he chooses.

Working the ref is a time honored conservative tradition, after all.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:28 PM on September 24, 2020 [14 favorites]


Also, can I just say that this quote from the OP:
and that if someone disagrees with a view, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re hateful or have bad intent.
...makes me seethe with rage?

No, Mark, people aren't calling people hateful and bad actors because they disagree. They're doing it because they're spewing hate speech and engaging in bad faith arguments. This "disagreement of viewpoint" fallacy needs to die, in a fire preferably.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:34 PM on September 24, 2020 [35 favorites]


There are good people on both sides.
posted by rdr at 6:39 PM on September 24, 2020 [4 favorites]


I had to Google Dan Bongino. Why is he so popular?

He has a tough guy, no-nonsense cop persona. I'm fairly certain I've seen him testify in front of Congress or the Senate which puts him beyond Tucker Carlson political pundit to someone who actually has clout. He recently disclosed he had a tumor which explains why he's been trending last couple of days. As an aside I highly recommend anyone interested in politics to also watch conservative news networks. It is less about hearing "the other side" or whatever but to understand and give context to some narratives I'd never be exposed to in my personal liberal bubble. It helps contextualize when someone brings up something seemingly innocuous like a U-Haul truck. Knowing it is running 24/7 on Fox News and no other major network at least helps me have some sort of dialogue with people I don't disagree with.

I don't think conservatism is necessarily a Facebook only issue, but perhaps that Facebook hit a larger swath of the population that not many other platforms engage in. Even when I don't see conservative posts I see other stupid post on Facebook I don't see elsewhere. Perhaps it is because it is traditionally easier to engage in with family and friends. My twitter feed is a cultivated list of coastal elite reporters and other intellectuals. Even if it wasn't stereotypically coastal elite, there was a certain effort to cultivate the list where Facebook just plop you into people you know, much like NextDoor.
posted by geoff. at 7:15 PM on September 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


"I certainly haven’t seen any data that suggests that free food is anywhere near the list of primary reasons that people come to work at this company."

Never mind ethically-shady projects or retribution for speaking out - the fastest way to get engineers to unionize is to threaten to reduce the size of their desks. I'm only half-kidding.
posted by airmail at 8:27 PM on September 24, 2020


I’m having trouble looking at that top 10 list and saying “look the majority of FB users are conservative.” Is there more context I’m missing? Couldn’t liberals be passing links of Breitbart around and taking apart it’s articles to combat disinformation? Bernie Sanders is in the top 10 today. I don’t know what that indicates. This list in and of itself doesn’t mean anything to me.
posted by herda05 at 8:55 PM on September 24, 2020


Isn't it more likely that liberals and leftists already left the platform at some point in the last five years?
posted by Merus at 9:09 PM on September 24, 2020 [18 favorites]


I also think that saying Facebook's user base tends to be more conservative is too shallow/insincere of an analysis. Facebook spreads stuff that people engage with, positively or negatively. Sure, cute pet pictures spread well this way but what will spread much better is stuff people get riled up about. So by nature what it spreads best is the most vicious, vile stuff. Even if only by accident, Facebook is a machine specifically designed to spread hate and lies. Zuckerberg, who has all the data to see this btw, tries to deny it and wants to muddle the water by making this about the user base of the machine instead of the evil of the machine itself.
posted by patrick54 at 10:10 PM on September 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


Why don't you tell them what went down in that secret meeting you had with Trump 11 months ago, Mark? We'd all like to know that, in fact.

Funny, but I don't seem to recall any secret meetings with Obama.
posted by jamjam at 11:05 PM on September 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


Couldn’t liberals be passing links of Breitbart around and taking apart it’s articles to combat disinformation?

... no?

Bernie Sanders is in the top 10 today.

I mean, some of them are 8/10 or 9/10 right-wing links, rather than 10/10 (I have not seen any that are less than half right-wing links). Robert Reich shows up unexpectedly often.

I will agree that this doesn't say what their audience "is" so much as what their content is.
posted by atoxyl at 11:14 PM on September 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Isn't it more likely that liberals and leftists already left the platform at some point in the last five years?
Not so. I'm in a huge left-wing bubble. Though a good part of it is because there are a lot of theatre people who a) tend to be lefty, and b) are stuck with it for low-cost advertising of events. Good alternative suggestions for b are welcome.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:51 AM on September 25, 2020


Zuck said he'd "go to the mat" if Warren was elected, so it's clear that he has a political preference which does not involve government oversight.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:59 PM on September 25, 2020


Just a reminder, this is a company that hired an attack firm to make anti-semetic ads against George Soros when he dared to support regulating them:
The Schrage memo does not include any apology for Definer’s or Facebook’s work on Soros. Indeed, Schrage defended the idea of a company using a political consultancy to perform opposition research on critics, writing: “Some of this work is being characterized as opposition research, but I believe it would be irresponsible and unprofessional for us not to understand the backgrounds and potential conflicts of interest of our critics.”

In a comment appended to the memo, Sandberg admitted that she had “received a small number of emails where Definers was referenced”.
Sandberg and Zuckerberg would stab their mothers to defend that sweet, sweet Facebook mountain of money. I hope one day Warren is in charge of breaking the company up and getting rid of Zuckerberg's ridiculous emperor for life share structure.
posted by benzenedream at 9:29 PM on September 25, 2020 [5 favorites]


jwz #1

jwz #2

for those unaware, jwz was largely instrumental in the creation of the first webbrowser (NCSA Mosaic).
If you work for Facebook, quit.

It is morally indefensible for you to use your skills to make that company more powerful. By working there, you are making the world an objectively worse place. I'm sure you can find a job working for a company that you don't have to apologize for all the time.

You can do it. I believe in you.
My life is profoundly better being Facebook free. I strongly encourage all y'all to do the same and even take a small portion of the time you spent on FB donating/volunteering/whatever to get the left voice heard again.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 3:22 PM on September 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


I deleted my Facebook account five years ago. The only way I know it was five years ago was that I set a calendar reminder a year before that when I merely disabled it. My thought was that I'd give myself a year to miss it, and if I hadn't reactivated it by the end of that year then I could just delete the whole thing. So that's what I did. (In truth I knew I was good after only a month without it, but I made myself wait for the full year because I stick to the arbitrary rules I set for myself). But I can't just recommend this to everybody, as much as I might like it for them to do their event invitations in some way that I might see. It's not just about where you are, it's where your friends, family, and network are There's still a lot of gravity that keeps people in that network. (Remember Diaspora? Remember the week everybody thought they were going to quit Twitter for Mastodon?)

Given the fact that Facebook is the only social network for so many people, I do think that Facebook the company is failing to live up to what it owes society. As a business they only want to do the minimum that keeps them out of legal trouble, but I do think they have a moral obligation at a minimum to join existing standards of enforcement, if not to be themselves a standard bearer. I think the C-suite wouldn't come to that on its own, but I thought the increase in pressure coming from the company rank and file has the potential to effect some sort of change. (But like many of you I'm cynical that the effected change would be very meaningful, given both Facebook's C-suite specifically and the general libertarian bent of Silicon Valley companies and investors. Companies, especially Silicon Valley companies, have trouble thinking of themselves in terms of morals).
posted by fedward at 9:46 AM on September 28, 2020


One, Zuckerberg is openly telling employees that the GOP is better for Facebook.

Two, I'd take the arguments of folks like jwz more seriously if they hadn't turned a blind eye to the misogyny and other bigotries in their own communities. Furthermore, a large part of why that blind eye got turned is because open source pushes walking away as the model of conflict resolution - which, as it turns out, doesn't really work. The sad reality is that the white supremacy is coming from inside the tech community (which is why you have Nazis actively recruiting within it), which "don't work for Facebook" is not an answer to.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:52 AM on October 1, 2020


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