Facebook Can’t Master The Corporate Apology


Via Facebook

A screengrab coming from Facebook’s ‘Here Together’ ad.

If you’ve been watching the NBA playoffs along with paying attention during commercial breaks, you may have noticed a trio of multi-billion dollar companies buying expensive air time to say ‘we’re sorry.’

The ads were bought by three California companies all trying to bounce back coming from a series of debilitating scandals — for Facebook, privacy, along with misinformation; for Uber, sexual harassment along with user privacy; along with for Wells Fargo, a series of fraud along with wealth management scandals. All share a similar goal: to move out of the current rut of bad publicity. Uber’s ad offers an apology of sorts coming from its completely new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. Looking straight to camera, he offers his word which the company aims to do better along with has built a “completely new leadership along that has a completely new culture,” which will provide “a better service.” Wells Fargo’s approach, though which lacks an appearance by a company executive, is usually blunt in its assessment of its failure to live up to its longstanding reputation. “We built on which trust,” the ad reads, “until we lost which.” The bank’s ad suggests its culture is usually undergoing a full reinvention.

along with then there’s Facebook’s “Here Together” ad, which, unlike the various other two, sidesteps any blame for whatever which’s apologizing for.

“We came here for the friends…along with just like which we felt a little less alone,” the Facebook ad begins over a sober piano score. “however then something happened. We had to deal with spam, clickbait, fake news, along with data misuse.” Left unspoken is usually who exactly was responsible for which “something” along with why exactly we all “had to deal” with which spam along with clickbait along with fake news along with data misuse. The answer, of course, is usually Facebook.

The careful wording of the Facebook ad, one the company has likely spent millions on to show during the NBA playoffs along with even in cinemas across the country is usually indicative of how the company has long handled its seemingly endless series of blunders along with mini scandals — which suggests a broader reluctance to accept full responsibility for what happens on its platform along with shows which Facebook has extraordinary difficulty delivering an adequate apology.

The “Here Together” ad strikes a peculiar, passive tone; there’s a general sense of disappointment along with empathy, however little inside the way of contrition. We made a nice place for you along with your friends to hang out, which suggests, however a bunch of assholes ruined which along with which sucks.

We made a nice place for you along with your friends to hang out however a bunch of assholes ruined which

which’s basically a true story, however which ignores a key fact: the place Facebook built prioritizes clicks, shares, ads, along with money over quality of information, along with rewards which with more attention. along with which data misuse? While which’s true which Facebook didn’t directly hand over personal information of unwitting users to political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, the company’s cavalier privacy features, lack of foresight, along with lax data permissions structures made the scandal possible.

Which is usually to say: which refuses to do the real work of looking inward. For all its blog posts along with full-page newspaper ads, along with on along with off the record sessions with journalists, Facebook has yet to apologize for or even publicly interrogate the “Move Fast along with Break Things” ethos which defined the company during its first decade (in 2014, the company changed its mantra to the far clunkier “Move Fast With Stable Infra”). which’s opted, instead, to note repeatedly which many of Facebook’s privacy issues could have been nearly impossible to foresee when the CEO was constructing the site in his dorm room at Harvard.

“Here Together” posits Facebook as a sort of third party facilitator — a neutral platform. After all, a neutral platform is usually simple along with passive. which is usually as Great or bad as the people which use which. however little about Facebook is usually simple or passive. The company is usually itself enormous with tens of thousands of employees along with over 2 billion users. which didn’t get which way passively. which has profit margins to maintain along with users to gain along that has a stock cost to worry about. along with, like any responsible company, which makes calculated decisions based on those interests, including, how to calibrate the algorithms which determine what each of its users see along with watch. In News Feed ranking meetings, fresh-faced bright young things meticulously plot how the placement of pixels will cause people to click more, or less, on the items they scroll past in their feeds.


Via Facebook

A screengrab coming from “Facing Facts”

The “Here Together” ad isn’t the only expensive piece of video the company has put out in recent weeks. On Wednesday Facebook debuted a 12-minute short film titled “Facing Facts” directed by Academy Award winning documentarian Morgan Neville. The video itself is usually not intended as an apology of any kind however which is usually no doubt an essential component of Facebook’s apology or image rehabilitation tour. Like “Here Together,” its primary goal is usually to assuage viewers — in which case by showing them how committed the company is usually toward fixing the problem of “false news”. “We’re doing everything we can to fight which,” head of News Feed John Hegeman notes inside the video. “99% isn’t Great enough.”

The film’s message appears to be: which is usually all quite hard. News, the Facebook employees rightly argue, is usually complicated. The truth is usually messy, one Facebook data science manager notes, while dividing information into four quadrants on a whiteboard: “wrong” information, “right” information, “propaganda,” along with “hoaxes.” Objectivity, for a platform like Facebook, is usually even harder, the video suggests; the company doesn’t want to meddle too much with what its users see, however which’s also clear coming from the last 18 months which the company maybe ought to meddle some. The film is usually far coming from hubristic however which ends on a confident note. “We’re taking great steps every single day toward solving which incredibly complex problem,” one employee says into the camera. Cool. Thanks.

Facebook moved fast, things broke.

along with yet, the effort somehow still feels flat. Much like Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimonies before congress along with both UK along with European parliaments, the video offers only vague generalizations. Any responsibility for the missteps comes only coming from the subtext of the film — we made which video because you think we fucked up; I am here testifying before congress because you think we fucked up — there’s little overt admission of past errors.

What both “Facing Facts” along with “Here Together” have in common is usually which they fail to address a vital component of the corporate apology: the company culture. Facebook’s misinformation efforts are appreciated however more than a little late. Users don’t want a pledge which the company will currently begin to do what which ought to have been doing all along; they want an acknowledgement which privileging breakneck innovation along with attention optimization over all else got us to where we are currently. along with which which the onus for all which falls squarely on Facebook. which moved fast, things broke.

Nobody expects a company — especially one which operates at Facebook’s scale — to anticipate or plan for every conceivable hurdle at its inception. however Facebook wasn’t built in a day. along with many of the privacy, advertising, along with misinformation problems which have plagued the company didn’t appear overnight — they evolved slowly as a response to the conscious design of the platform. By not meaningfully addressing its culture along with helping to draw a line coming from Zuckerberg’s dorm room to Cambridge Analytica along with Russian troll farms, Facebook is usually seen as only treating the symptoms instead of the disease.

which’s why Facebook’s recent efforts, as earnest as they may be, feel ultimately unsatisfying. along with which’s why the Uber along with Wells Fargo commercials, despite also being expensive acts of marketing, feel which much less like bullshit.

Charlie Warzel is usually a senior writer for BuzzFeed News along with is usually based in completely new York. Warzel reports on along with writes about the intersection of tech along with culture.

Contact Charlie Warzel at charlie.warzel@buzzfeed.com.

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