For most of 2017, social media giant Facebook took a pounding. Both pundits in the media and congressmen in DC were blaming Facebook for contributing to “Russian meddling” in the 2016 election. They accused the network of taking untold sums of money from Russian-backed media companies that hoped to spread confusion.
Meanwhile, users on the right of the political spectrum were still sore at Facebook for supposedly blocking or hiding their brand of political content. Many conservative groups feel their voices were silenced or at least quieted in the run-up to the election, and they are not going to stand by and allow that … even if it wasn’t, precisely, happening.
In both of these cases, the perception and assumption that Facebook could have acted more rightly or more fairly caused constituents on both sides to continue to rage against the network all year long.
Now, it seems, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it his goal in 2018 to set some things right. In a recent post on his own page, Zuckerberg recently said:
“The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent… My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues.”
How he plans to do this remains a mystery, and even Zuckerberg admits it won’t be easy. “We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we’re successful this year, then we’ll end 2018 on a much better trajectory…”
Trajectory is a good way to think about this situation. It’s a trend that created a reputation, rather than an incident that created a response. Because of this, any fix will have to be a long-term, developing strategy, rather than a short-term patch job.
One of the biggest things many people want Facebook to fix will be the toughest: the bubble. Facebook, by the nature of its protocols, tends to show people what it thinks they want to see. That has led to most users being inundated only with what they love and agree with and never seeing things that they disagree with … unless they’re presented as caricatures to be lampooned.
That increasingly problematic as more Americans are getting their news and view of the world through social media than ever before. Viewership of TV news is diminishing even as clicks on internet “news” sites continues to rise. And many of those sites get the lion’s share of their views through Facebook.
If Zuckerberg wants “the world” to feel less divided and yet still keep his advertisers happy, he has a very tough job ahead of him in 2018.