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The Interface - Issue #51

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This week my bosses asked me to reflect on Facebook's year. It was a year in which almost too much we
 
December 20 · Issue #51 · View online
The Interface
This week my bosses asked me to reflect on Facebook’s year. It was a year in which almost too much went on — so much that I started a newsletter largely just to organize all the various unfolding threads. And when I thought about what mattered the most — what gave the year its shape — I kept coming back to Justin Rosenstein, Sean Parker, Roger McNamee, and Chamath Palihapitiya. The former insiders who felt the need to distance themselves from the company they helped build is a phenomenon that is all but unique in the tech world.
By virtue of the work they did at Facebook, the former employees have a unique credibility when they critique the company. And as the months have gone on, their critiques have grown more strident:
It’s fair to ask why these former employees are speaking out only now, after they have reaped millions helping bring Facebook to a position of global dominance. To some, it feels self-serving. They have little to risk now in complaining about their former employer, but could stand to gain if public opinion turns against Facebook further. None have said what they would have done differently at Facebook, knowing what they know now. Even Palihapitiya said later that the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world.”
Still, the volleys of criticism all set the stage for the company’s December 15th blog post, in which it tiptoed into waters previously reserved only for academics, journalists, and Facebook’s critics. It laid out, in an admirably straightforward way, a number of studies that had shown News Feed consumption could make people feel worse about their own lives. It also presented research suggesting that Facebook could strengthen the bonds between friends and family, and make them feel better.
Almost as important as what the company’s researchers said is what they only suggested: that Facebook itself cannot predict the effects it will have on us, either at the individual or societal level. This explains why it would respond to Palihapitiya not by attempting to refute his fears but instead by pledging to work with outside researchers and use it to “inform our product development.”
Facebook enters 2018 more dominant than ever, but also facing more scrutiny. Whether more former employees come forward — and what they have to say — are one of the most intriguing threads I’m watching as we move into the New Year.

Democracy
Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads
In Protests of Net Neutrality Repeal, Teenage Voices Stood Out
This Fake Photo Of Mark Zuckerberg In A Nazi Uniform Highlights Facebook’s Content Dilemmas
Russian trolls went on attack during key election moments
Could Facebook Be Tried for Human-Rights Abuses?
Elsewhere
Facebook is changing licensing terms for Watch shows, creating a dilemma for publishers
Magic Leap finally unveils augmented reality goggles
Dating app Hinge rolls out a new feature to reduce ‘ghosting’
Pokémon Go iOS update will deliver more advanced augmented reality thanks to ARKit
Launches
Twitter adds more verification options for two-factor authentication
Takes
Misinformer of the Year: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
And finally ...
The MoviePass customer support Twitter thread that won't die
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Facebook year-in-review essays? casey@theverge.com 
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