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Rethinking Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg’s letter, “Building global communities”, evidences the mindset of the Facebook founder as he accepts for the first time the full level of his responsibility in helping put his country under the command of an imbecile like Donald Trump for the next four years. The arguments that Facebook played a key role in the Trump victory are no longer “crazy” but now backed by hard evidence.

The letter seems to rewrite Facebook’s mission, “giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” despite the evidence that it is precisely this capacity that has led many people in society to end up living in bubbles where they are fed antisocial ideas, fed by carefully administered torrents of fake news and hate speech. The new mission, (still) unofficially defined as “developing the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all”, makes clear the need to redefine Facebook as a tool to bring people together and not to divide them.

In other words, communities that support people, that are safe, properly informed, civically involved, and inclusive. A social network that was born on a university campus and grew as a connecting tool to put people in touch with friends and families, now intends to build on that to develop social infrastructure for community development. In fact, ​​”social infrastructure” is repeated 14 times throughout the 5,800 word missive.

To build this social infrastructure, Facebook looks to the great oracle of the future: artificial intelligence. On the verge of reaching two billion users, Facebook wants to make it clear that if your idea is to commit an attack, harass others, incite hatred or commit suicide, the network will be responsible for detecting and acting accordingly.

The deletion of a sentence after the first publication of the letter that referred to the monitoring of private messages does not hide the fact that the company’s intention is to apply artificial intelligence to detecting antisocial or dangerous behavior and to proceed to the personalized monitoring when required. Facebook is a business company and as such its goal is to make money, but it seems to be accepting responsibility for the influence it exerts on people, after carrying out unethical experiments that showed how it could influence the mental state of its users.

A critical reading of Zuckerberg’s letter clearly reveals a political intention, an attempt to replace those newspapers that he has already deprived of a substantial amount of income, and a critical reflection on the role his network has been able to play in the US elections. This moment of reflection is timely: ​​the next time during an election anywhere in the world politicians or other activists try to misuse Facebook by spreading hate speech and fake news they must be stopped, using all possible means.

The Facebook effect is fueling all sorts of discussion, ranging from doubts about the true value of elections, to the temptations of epistocracy or qualified voting. If the founder of the most successful social network in history one thing is clear about one thing, it is that he has to get certain issues under control and avoid Facebook being misused, and that he is going to do so through the technology within his reach: artificial intelligence.

I sincerely believe he is right: let artificial intelligence supplement the unfortunate shortage of natural intelligence suffered by so many people.

(En español, aquí)