The Longform podcast recently hosted Casey Newton of the Verge to talk about his coverage of Facebook. You may have read his recent story: The Trauma Floor: Secret Lives of Facebook Content Moderators
in which he profiles a content moderation site in Arizona where employees work in conditions far from those you would find in Mountain View to filter inappropriate and oftentimes traumatizing content from the social network.
What I found most interesting about Casey’s work in the tech journalism space is this arc of story growth he’s seen in many big tech platforms:
They start out as science story - engineers trying to optimize algorithms, and grow massively scaled platforms. The question they’re trying to answer is: “Will it work?”
Then they become a business story - once the science problems are solved, monetization and profitability become the key priority. The question they’re trying to answer is: “Will it be sustainable?”
Then they become a politics story - now that Facebook is technologically stable and profitable, its focus is now in the political realm. The question they’re trying to answer (maybe) is: “What is Facebook’s role in politics?”
I’m not sure what’s next or if anything necessarily is next. Do they become a “branch” of government? of social services? education? That is to say, will they try to nudge us to be more productive? Will they help us find resources we’re unaware of?
Time will tell, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts on what the next big question Facebook will have to tackle will be.