back to article Facebook is the internet's cigarette: Addictive and laced with nasty stuff – 'shocking images, graphic videos, headlines that incite outrage'

Members of the US House of Representatives held a hearing on Thursday about role antisocial networks have played in radicalizing America. They did so amid a bitterly partisan election expected to set a record for political ad spending, much of which will enrich social media companies like Facebook. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge

    A cigarette a toilet

  2. DS999 Silver badge

    Last election

    Around this time I was seeing people share all sorts of shady political stuff from sources that were later fingered as Russian propaganda outlets, with claims that Hillary should be in prison for multiple murders, was secretly dying, or whatever. This time around I'm seeing zilch. Either Facebook is doing a better job at stopping it, people are becoming smarter about falling for conspiracy theories, or Facebook isn't the medium being leveraged this time around.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Last election

      Or the Russians have learned to improve their tactics over the last four years.

      Everyone knows what happened last time, so that wouldn't work again. But the Russians can learn too. This year, the focus is on painting Biden as an unprincipled centrist who isn't worth voting for. It's a caricature, but like all caricature there's enough reality in it to convince some people.

      This message is being pushed not just by sock puppets on Facebook, but through connections to other media too. I've seen two variations of it in the Guardian in the past week. Also in the Guardian, a few weeks ago, I saw a story by a freelance writer on how he was conned into feeding Russian propaganda. I don't think these things are unrelated.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Last election

        The "make Trump haters apathetic about Biden so they don't bother voting" strategy might have worked until RBG died. Now that Trump is about to get a court that will kill Obamacare and the pre-existing condition thing, allow states to ban abortions entirely, and a lot of other things on the conservative wish list, a lot of people are waking up the idea that if Trump isn't stopped and can appoint a few more seats we might be screwed with backwards ideas until the middle of the century regardless of how the views of the people may change in that time.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Last election

      "Either Facebook is doing a better job at stopping it, people are becoming smarter about falling for conspiracy theories, or Facebook isn't the medium being leveraged this time around."

      Or maybe one of these alternatives:

      1. You are not getting the dodgy content sent to you because Facebook's targeting has identified you as not falling for it.

      2. You don't connect as much with the people likely to believe it, so people you know aren't sharing it.

      3. The content being pushed is of better quality so you aren't correctly identifying it for what it is.

      4. People are pushing dodgy content that really comes from the attributed sources, so other dodgy content looks more normal because the overall quality is worse.

      5. You read less on Facebook than you did before.

      6. Foreign governments found the last attempt wasn't as successful as other ideas they've had, so they're not doing it as much.

      Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean that it isn't there, and since I don't know what you have read on Facebook or what you read before, I can't tell you exactly why it's different. Before jumping to the conclusion that Facebook's doing something or the scammers have moved elsewhere, consider the alternatives.

  3. beep54

    Uh, duh

    Facebook has always been toxic. Always. Also, people are NOT becoming smarter. The disinformationists are becoming frightfully better at it.

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    There's no hope

    Facebook fact checking is too little too late, for every single fake video, and Zuckerborg knows it:

    We fact-checked a fake viral video with a Trump supporter (CNN, 4 minutes)

    When the CNN interviewer shows his interviewee proof that a video he watched was fake (that WaPo article he showed him would never even have shown up in the guy's Facebook feed), he says won't change the opinion he formed while watching that fake video. Repeated perhaps millions of times. That is the problem we are facing.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: There's no hope

      Of course it won't change his mind. The hard right figured out they couldn't win based on facts and reality, so over time they created their own bubble where they could spew alternative facts in an alternative reality without anyone challenging them. Part of that alternative reality is that basically every single media outlet in the world has a liberal bias, except for the ones in the bubble. That's how the hard right (and later Trump) took over the republican party beginning in the latter half of the 2000s.

      So showing the guy proof a video was faked from a Washington Post article will do as much good as showing a statement from NASA to a guy who believes the Moon landings were faked. You'd have to show him proof from a Trump approved source.

  5. werdsmith Silver badge

    Only chavs left on Faecebook now, most people closing their accounts in droves, or at least claiming to. It’s hard to find someone who will admit they still use it, because of its awful lowlife stigma.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Have an upvote for

      for using the word Faecae before breakfast time (UK) is over

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Zuck is as bad as your local corner drug pusher

    Facebook is as we have known for several year, addictive by design. The other anti-social media sites have followed suit.

    It is time that Zuck as majority owner/CEO/Brains behind it (apparently) was taken down for good, made to do the 'perp walk' and tried for crimes against humanity.

    Not on FB so he can't kick me off.

  7. Chris G

    Never mind the threats from Chinese social media platforms to the sanctity of American teen's data, it seems one of the biggest threats to American national security is homegrown Feacebook, followed closely by wassapp, instagram and not forgetting the damage to democratic government caused by Twitter.

  8. Robert Grant Silver badge

    Facebook is the internet's cigarette: Addictive and laced with nasty stuff – 'shocking images, graphic videos, headlines that incite outrage'

    Good job on the outrage-free headline.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Good job on the outrage-free headline."

      The words used in the headline came from a member of FB that can be read in the linked .pdf's

      1. Robert Grant Silver badge

        Lots of words in those PDFs.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          And the writers of the headline chose to quote some which summarized the points made in the statement. The statement was outraged, so the chunk that summarized it was outraged. That statement was the topic of the article, so... why was it so wrong to quote a summary in the headline?

          1. Robert Grant Silver badge

            No one said it was so wrong. Other than perhaps the article on outrage-inducing headlines.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Every page of facebook should come with a health warning

    Which requires clicking 200 dialog boxes to dismiss

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook monopoly

    I used to be a member of various internet forums, but they all need money to run them and people to administer them. Lots of those forums have died and moved onto facebook where they effectively get free hosting (if you can put up with the ads or block them). If I want to interact with people who share my hobbies and interests I typically need to join their specialist facebook group. Facebook pretty well has the monopoly on such groups nowadays. I wish it was otherwise, so I will likely remain on facebook for the foreseeable future.

    My profile is blank or fake and I don't post any personal information or personal photos etc. All facebook adverts are blocked. Facebook periodically suggests various other groups for me to join (mostly science related), some of which are relevant but most are not, but I've never been invited to join any extremist or political groups, probably because I'm not already a member of anything remotely political. Facebook feeds you with suggestions for what it thinks you may be interested in based upon your current usage.

    I'd be quite happy to ditch facebook and go back to the old internet forums if they were resurected, but I can't see it happening short of facebook being shut down by the US government.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Facebook monopoly

      I used to think I needed Faecebook for all these interest groups I liked.

      The I quit Faecebook and found it was not a problem. There really is no excusing for helping to sustain that monster.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Facebook monopoly

      When I quit Facebook/Messenger/Instagram about 3 months ago, I had to sacrifice membership of a number of groups linked to my hobbies, as well as shutting down my four business pages, one of them representing my main source of income.

      It was still the right thing to do.

  11. John Jennings

    Zukerberg has made enough

    Cant he just shut the doors?

    Its a social experiment/moneymaker that has failed. the results of the experiment are out - people still try to sell bridges, and marks are prepared to buy them.

    1. 96percentchimp

      Re: Zukerberg has made enough

      I'd say it's been a success on both counts, if your hypothesis was: "Can we make loads of money from giving all the loons somewhere to find each other, coordinate their lunacy and poison civic debate, while also creating an addictive platform for loons and non-loons to share trivial nonsense about their everyday lives that's absolute crack for advertisers?"

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Zukerberg has made enough

      A billionaire who decides stop making money ?

      Fat chance.

      EDIT : by pure coincidence, I just found this.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Zukerberg has made enough

        See also ex-Facebook "director of monetization" Tim Kendall who just testified that "At the very least, we have eroded our collective understanding - at worst, I fear we are pushing ourselves to the brink of a civil war".

  12. TeeCee Gold badge

    It's worse than that.

    Anyone can read "news" for free online.

    The toxic fallout from that little feature is that the real news media has to compete with free to survive. This forces them to cut costs to the bone, meaning that they now get their "public opinion" from, er, social media.

    The effect is that with a mere few thousand likeminded crazies of your preferred stripe you can pwn the news. The US alt-right loonies figured this out a while ago and the raving marxist wankhammers here have followed suit.

    The next problem is that democratic politicians are conditioned to scream "Yessir. How high." when a couple of hundred thousand people say "Jump". What they haven't worked out yet is that, in a globally connected world, 200k signatures to a cause is still a pitifully insignificant minority...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: raving marxist wankhammers

      Hehehe! If I could give you an extra upvote for that, i would (and I say that as someone who's probably sort of centre-left)!

      Made me laugh on a fairly depressing Friday...

      Oh, well, at least it's the weekend soon...

  13. chivo243 Silver badge

    Yeah, it's a dumpster fire

    Yep, it's on fire. Hot huh?

  14. Red Ted

    Massively difficult to change Facebook

    The difficult thing about Facebook in particular is that now it is such a massively rich company it can afford many lobbyists to push their interests in government. It is also a company still run by Zuckerberg, because he managed to float the company, but only sell shares that had little or no voting rights. He retains the majority of the votes, so whatever he wants goes.

    A classic "One man, One vote" system, where Zuckerberg is that man and has that vote (with apologies to Terry Pratchett).

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's a little 'f' on every page here...

    Usually next to the picture of the small bird. Should we be worried?

  16. Lucy in the Sky (with Diamonds)

    I have always felt sad about loosing a life long friend to FaceBook, because I realise I no longer remember what their names used to be…

  17. CrackedNoggin

    In the US, prior to WWII the KKK was huge and had major political influence. Post WWII there was McCarthy. I agree most definitely that Facebook overall has a negative influence and spreads stupid extremism for profit and power. However, stupid extremism (for profit and power) itself has a long history in the US. So it would be naive to believe that "stopping" Facebook would cure stupid extremism. Just a reminder to be humble in expectations, and cautious in passing laws that would give government power over media content (an uncontrollable slippery slope), that wouldn't "fix" stupid extremism anyway. Public pressure is the right way to proceed - but not up to the point of giving government power over media content. Preserve the right of internet companies to moderate content themselves, and if they fail, complain loudly.

    What can be done is to make use of neglected anti trust laws, and improve law to protect user data privacy (~GPDR), leveling the playing field. In the long run, this will create more opportunity for Facebook semi-rivals.

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