It’s been a few weeks since we had a fresh controversy from Meta, and this week we had two that tied neatly (and excruciatingly) together.
First up, Meta has been paying a company to smear TikTok as a way of deflecting attention from its own PR issues. As the Washington Post reported…
Facebook parent company Meta is paying one of the biggest Republican consulting firms in the country to orchestrate a nationwide campaign seeking to turn the public against TikTok.
The campaign includes placing op-eds and letters to the editor in major regional news outlets, promoting dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends that actually originated on Facebook, and pushing to draw political reporters and local politicians into helping take down its biggest competitor.
Dirty tricks indeed, but Meta was far from sorry, as Variety explained
Asked to comment on Targeted Victory’s so-called “astroturfing” campaign, Meta spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement, “We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success.”
Confecting controversies and public outrage about a competitor isn’t scrutiny, it’s deflection. And Meta’s own flaws hit the spotlight again just a day after the Washington Post’s scoop. The Verge revealed
a pretty serious News Feed bug that appears to have been boosting misinformation that was supposed to be suppressed.
A group of Facebook engineers identified a “massive ranking failure” that exposed as much as half of all News Feed views to potential “integrity risks” over the past six months, according to an internal report on the incident obtained by The Verge….
Instead of suppressing posts from repeat misinformation offenders that were reviewed by the company’s network of outside fact-checkers, the News Feed was instead giving the posts distribution, spiking views by as much as 30 percent globally. Unable to find the root cause, the engineers watched the surge subside a few weeks later and then flare up repeatedly until the ranking issue was fixed on March 11th.
Meta downplayed the bug, with the company’s Joe Osborne saying
: “This Verge piece misrepresented a bug that had no meaningful, long-term impact on the problematic content people saw. Only a very small # of views of this content in Feed were ever impacted because the overwhelming majority of posts in Feed are not eligible to be down-ranked.”
Okay, but without definitions of ‘meaningful’, ‘long-term’, ‘problematic’, and ‘small number’ it’s hard to take this response seriously. That’s especially true in a week where we’ve also seen stories about Meta failing to label
bioweapons conspiracy theory posts, and problems with its handling
of potential child sexual abuse.
Meta has a trust
problem and no amount of smearing a rival can counter that. Only by being open and accountable, and making positive changes to become a better global citizen can the company truly regain that trust.