Facebook’s internal research had discovered that its algorithms “exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.” yet its top executives suppressed all internal efforts that were raised to make the platform less divisive.
The internal research was conducted after the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light, according to a new Wall Street Journal report.
The goal was to find the platform’s effect on user behavior. Researchers observed that instead of fulfilling the company’s mission to connect with the world, Facebook products had the opposite effect.
The internal report said that Facebook’s algorithms make the social media platform a more polarized place. WSJ also mentioned one of its 2016 reports in which Facebook found that 64% of users who joined extremist groups on the platform did so because of the company’s recommendation algorithms.
The following year Facebook launched a new effort called “Common Ground” to make the platform less polarizing and “increase empathy” among users.
But eventually, top executives of the company decided not to implement many of the recommendations that were provided. It even watered down the proposed changes to reduce the polarizing nature of its algorithms.
Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s policy chief, in particular was concerned that if such changes were made to the News Feed rankings, it would further infuriate conservatives who already believed that Facebook was biased against them.
According to WSJ, Mark Zuckerberg’s interest in alleviating this problem was “fleeting.” The publication noted that the CEO became more vocal about free speech only recently, and since then, he keeps on dismissing the idea that Facebook makes people more divided.
In fact, Zuckerberg previously made it quite clear earlier this year that he doesn’t care much about “being liked,” especially when free speech is the agenda. The CEO said he plans to spend the next decade “communicating our [Facebook’s] principles,” even if they are unpopular.