It is often said that bad news never comes alone and that is what happened to Facebook this week. The technology giant has been criticized for the negative impact of Instagram on the mental health of millions of users, particularly among adolescent women, and for its nefarious management of fake news . The shock wave of these revelations has reached its price, which closed the week with losses of 4.44% .
This percentage, which represents a drop in capitalization of about 55 million dollars, is not especially significant because Facebook had come from being at all-time highs. In the first nine months of 2021, the technology giant has gained 35.61% , doubling what has been achieved so far this year by the Dow Jones (14.4%).
However, Facebook must reflect on these accusations, assume its responsibility and take concrete measures to end the origin of them. Otherwise, the company could see the horror of this week repeat itself.
The harmful effect of Instagram
The popular photo-sharing app poses a threat to the mental health of millions of young people, especially women, by creating an environment of “negative social comparison” that also fuels suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety . This information, obtained by The Wall Street Journal and published this week, is the result of a three-year investigation carried out by the company itself.
According to the leaked internal messages, slides and documents, Facebook’s top executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, have been aware since 2019 that Instagram is worsening “body image problems in one in three teenagers.” The director of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, said he was “proud” of the investigation in an interview with the American newspaper, as his goal is for the company to assume “its responsibilities more broadly.”
For his part, the executive director of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, assured in a hearing before Congress that the investigation into the possible negative effects of their platforms on the mental health of children was not “conclusive . “
Facebook took over Instagram in 2012 after paying $ 1 billion. Today, young people under 23 years of age are crucial to the success of Instagram, representing more than 40% of its users and an annual income of approximately 100 billion dollars (84.68 billion euros).
The equivalent of almost 320 years of eliminating fake news in the US alone
In 2020, Facebook employees spent more than 3.2 million hours searching, tagging, and removing false, violent, or deceptive content posted on their platform . Of the total time invested, 2.8 million hours, about 319 years, were used exclusively on information generated within the United States, according to The Wall Street Journal .
Although these publications, which are up to six times more popular than those containing real information , usually deal with issues related to violent gangs, drug trafficking, human trafficking or the dissemination of false data, they also promote misinformation about the climate crisis.
In this sense, Facebook announced this week the expansion of its climate science center and investment in organizations that fight against disinformation, as well as a series of videos to introduce young climate activists, all in a new attempt to end this type of misinformation on its platform.
However, these measures have been widely criticized as insufficient. According to The Guardian , environmental groups have repeatedly denounced the threat posed by Facebook in the fight against climate change as an amplifier of this type of misinformation . Examples of these are the more than 8 million views obtained by dozens of climate misinformation ads posted on Facebook, as the watchdog group InfluenceMap discovered in October 2020.
Mark Zuckerberg himself admitted in a congressional hearing in April 2021 that the platform has a big problem with climate misinformation . However, this would represent a very low percentage compared to the global count of disinformation circulating on Facebook, according to the company in the past.