Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg just addressed controversies surrounding the social platform, a rare move from him. This comes at the heels of the release of internal documents referred to as "the Facebook Papers", which whistleblower and former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen believes could prove that Facebook's leaders have intentionally and repeatedly put the company's image and profit first over the safety of the platform's users. These were shared with the U.S. Congress in redacted form after Haugen disclosed them to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the documents are being reviewed by a consortium of news organizations, which are doing their own investigations into the allegations.
Here's a summary of what Zuckerberg said in his post:
First, Zuckerberg believes that the recent debate around the company is a coordinated effort to paint a false picture of his company.
He then discussed the struggle he and his company is facing when it comes to making decisions that deal with "competing social equities", stating the need to balance such equities like free expression and policing harmful content or giving researchers access to information and protecting user data.
He says that Facebook's research and transparency programs are "industry-leading". The company has dedicated over 40,000 people and will invest more than US$5 billion in safety and security in 2021.
Zuckerberg said that the technology firm set up a new model for independent academic researchers to safely access data. This could be a response to the backlash Facebook got in connection with its disabling the accounts of New York University researchers who probed into political ads and fake news on the social network. In August 2021, the company said that it suspended the academics from the site due to their violating privacy guidelines. However, academics and U.S. lawmakers perceived this as a crackdown on watchdog initiatives exposing Facebook ads.
Aside from that, Zuckerberg mentioned that Facebook will refocus the company's efforts to prioritise serving young adults amidst the platform's declining teen and young adult user base. The Silicon Valley giant acknowledged that TikTok is a formidable competitor when it comes to attracting the attention of young users.
A part of the technology firm's plans to attract the youth is its focus on Reels, which it noticed has been the main driver of engagement growth of Instagram. There might also be big changes to Facebook and Instagram in the next year to prioritise video content and make Reels the centre of users' experience.
E-commerce is also another concern for Facebook, considering that Apple's privacy changes require users to indicate their consent to be tracked by apps. This has led to several users opting out of the tracking and the average cost of online advertisements for e-commerce businesses to rise. Facebook came up with solutions to this such as ads that can direct users to either a business's website or its Shop on Facebook's platforms depending on the effectiveness of the placement.
Zuckerberg also mentioned its big goals for the metaverse, which is a major area of investment for Facebook. The Facebook version of a metaverse is an initiative to build a virtual world that is supported by hardware and connect users with a set of social apps.
Recently, Oculus launched the 128GB model for the Quest 2, which costs US$299 (approximately S$402.71) and Facebook released its own smart glasses. But as Zuckerberg mentioned, bringing the metaverse to life will require more than just a new glasses product. That's why the technology giant is creating multiple generations of virtual reality and augmented reality products, a new operating system, a development model, a digital commerce platform, content studios and a social platform.
Written by Sophia Lopez