I Am Not Sure, but It Seems Like Facebook Might Be Too Big nytimes.com

Sheera Frenkel and Davey Alba, New York Times:

With 340 million people using Facebook’s various social media platforms, India is the company’s largest market. And Facebook’s problems on the subcontinent present an amplified version of the issues it has faced throughout the world, made worse by a lack of resources and a lack of expertise in India’s 22 officially recognized languages.


Of India’s 22 officially recognized languages, Facebook said it has trained its A.I. systems on five. (It said it had human reviewers for some others.) But in Hindi and Bengali, it still did not have enough data to adequately police the content, and much of the content targeting Muslims “is never flagged or actioned,” the Facebook report said.

Casey Newton, Platformer:

Facebook likely spends more on integrity efforts than any of its peers, though it is also the largest of the social networks. Sissons told me that ideally, the company’s community standards and AI content moderation capabilities would be translated into every country where Facebook is operating. But even the United Nations supports only six official languages; Facebook has native speakers moderating posts in more than 70.

Maybe I am oversimplifying this, but perhaps some things are obviously simple: it is probably not possible to fairly and accurately moderate discussions between billions of people speaking hundreds of languages.

If Facebook were a utility, this would not be a problem — but it is not, nor should it be. Facebook is a business. Its features amplify our worst instincts which, in turn, boosts engagement with the company’s platforms and helps attract advertisers. Facebook’s representatives like to say that this is not true because advertisers and shareholders could not possibly be attracted to a company with a poor record, but in the years since Facebook was tied to genocide the company’s value has doubled.

Facebook is too large. It has too much control over platforms relied upon by too many people in too many languages and regions. That is in part because its platforms are very good at facilitating communication, but it is also because the company has acquired potential rivals and encouraged use by violating the net neutrality principles the company ostensibly supports. There are apps competing for different parts of Facebook’s business in different parts of the world, but Facebook’s products remain the glue holding together disparate factions. I do not think crowning Facebook by treating it like a utility, as some have suggested, is a wise decision, as the objectives of a private company are inherently different to those of a public entity. It makes more sense to break this giant into smaller pieces, both by mandating interoperability and exploring options to separate its self-competing products.

Maybe individual companies should not be this big.