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Sprinkles from the Left

⏰🚀 Ready, Set, Go: These opinions take 1.63 minutes to read.

“A new series of reports from the Wall Street Journal, “The Facebook files,” provides damning evidence that Facebook has studied and long known that its products cause measurable, real-world harm… and then stifled that research while denying and downplaying that harm to the public. The revelations… only strengthen the case that a growing chorus of lawmakers and regulators have been making for breaking up Facebook or otherwise severely limiting its power as a social media giant…

It’s unclear how much these efforts will impact Facebook’s policy decisions and bottom line. The investigations are in their early stages, and it’s too soon to say if it will directly lead to any new laws or other regulation…

For years, Facebook’s main line of defense to criticism about any negative impacts its products might cause is that social media, like other technological innovations, can cause some harm — but that the good outweighs the bad…

At some point, the question is whether the public will accept that rationale as an excuse for the company to have free rein to experiment on our collective well-being, measure that harm, and keep the public in the dark about what they learn as they continue to rake in record revenue of nearly $30 billion a quarter.”

–Shirin Ghaffary, Vox Recode

“The Senate hearing comes after nearly three months of bad press for Facebook. In July, the Biden administration and Facebook fought over the platform’s role in allowing COVID-19 misinformation to spread. In August, the company shut down access for NYU researchers studying that spread, and released a misleading report attempting to downplay how popular misinformation is on Facebook. And last week, after The Wall Street Journal published its bombshell reports based on Haugen’s leaked internal research, senators grilled a senior Facebook executive, accusing the company of hiding information about the impact of its products on teens.

These stories all have one thing in common: Facebook (along with other social media platforms) has troves of research trying to measure the effect their products have on society. But, for the most part, the only people who have access to it are employees themselves. Researchers, journalists, lawmakers and the American public are in the dark about the true extent to which social media impacts our lives…

“There is this saying at Facebook, which is data wins arguments,” former Facebook executive Brian Boland said on CNN this summer, discussing misinformation on the platform.

Yet despite recent attempts to make some data available to outside researchers, right now Facebook is the only one looking at all of the data. And they’re certainly not winning any arguments by holding it back.”

Jonathan Nagler & Joshua A. Tucker, NY Daily News Opinion

Sprinkles from the Right

⏰🚀 Ready, Set, Go: These opinions take 1.62 minutes to read.

“According to studies, teenagers now spend an average of 7.4 hours a day looking at screens, and one in four check their social media hourly. In the face of growing concern, Facebook, the largest social media giant, has publicly downplayed the negative effects of social media on children. Yet recent reporting has revealed that Facebook is fully aware of these harms, even as it continues to target younger and younger audiences…

These disturbing revelations add to a growing body of evidence that social media is affecting the mental health of an entire generation. Anxiety, depression, self-harm, and teen suicide have all been on the rise since 2009, the same year social media platforms became widely available on mobile devices…

Although Facebook has known about these harms, it has actively withheld the truth from the public. In August, when senators sent a bipartisan letter asking Facebook to provide their research on social media’s effects on youth, Facebook declined… Meanwhile, Facebook forged ahead with plans to launch a children’s version of Instagram called “Instagram Kids,” which was halted only days ago after Facebook received overwhelming blowback from Congress and parent groups…

Although Congress does not agree on everything regarding Big Tech, there is a growing bipartisan consensus that more must be done to defend the interests of children and the broader public against these powerful companies.”

–Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS)

“On Monday afternoon I began realizing how many people depend on Facebook as their primary mode of communication or interaction with others. The site connects them with friends, family members, familiar strangers, and the rest of the world on an interactive level. It’s now interwoven into the fabric of their social existence…

Former Facebook product manager [Frances Haugen] revealed how the company knew about the societal dangers of its newsfeed algorithms. (I touched on its time-sucking implications in my previous column.)

As Haugen testifies before Congress, we should testify about our obvious addiction to Facebook. Networking sites will do anything to keep us on them to entice more clicks, likes and comments. It’s all about profits for investors of a publicly traded company with an estimated worth of $1 trillion…

Anger. Hate. Drama. Extremism. Misinformation. Polarizing content. Whatever it takes to keep our attention, Facebook has used it. We didn’t need a whistleblower to alert us. We just need to look at our newsfeeds. And our not-so-secretive habit dozens of times every day for the sake of entertainment and social interaction.

Let’s face it. Facebook is us.

It connects us. It divides us. It repels us. It attracts us. It uses us. And we know it.”

–Jerry Davich, Chicago Tribune Opinion ($)