60 Minutes ran one of its typical one-sided hit pieces last night as it featured the “big reveal” of the Facebook whistleblower. This time, they have “hard evidence” that Facebook works as designed.
How is any of this a surprise?
The algorithms on all Facebook platforms are trained to keep you engaged with the content. Why? Facebook makes more money when you’re engaged with the content… but so does every advertiser. Advertising works on Facebook, which is a fact backed up by Facebook’s extraordinary financial success. (You should use the terms advertising and messaging interchangeably; to the algorithm, content is content.)
Importantly, the content of the content does not matter; if there is a user that is likely to engage with a piece of content, the algorithm will test it, learn from the user’s behavior, and improve Facebook’s ability to surface similar or related content to that user. The magic of Facebook is that its users relentlessly train it to keep them addicted. This is not new news.
The question of whether the harmful nature of social media is actionable is an interesting one. Facebook, like many corporations, makes a lawful product that can be (and often is) abused. What, if anything, can (or should) be done about it?
Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.