Facebook Can Absolutely Control Its Algorithm

There is a narrative emerging around Facebook that implies the social-networking giant cannot prevent the spread of fake news, Russian political messages, and ads targeting hate groups on its platform. Like Dr. Frankenstein, Facebook created a monster! The algorithms have already won! Facebook’s sheer scale means it could never successfully police the gazillion pieces of content its 2 billion users create and share every second. We are doomed to live in a dystopian post-truth world of propaganda, dark ads, and artificial intelligence.

This echoes Facebook’s own defense against the rising backlash it faces. If Facebook is beholden to algorithms, it cannot be held fully responsible for the activity on its network. Announcing new tools last week to police things like Russia’s purchase of political ads, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook could do better, but tried to set expectations: “I’m not going sit here and tell you that we’re going to catch all bad content in our system.” He framed his reasoning in terms of freedom of speech: “We don’t check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don’t think society should want us to.”

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