In its introduction to the eight-part investigation, the Journal wrote, “Time and again, the documents show, Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects. Time and again, despite congressional hearings, its own pledges and numerous media exposés, the company didn’t fix them.” The documents the outlet obtained, “offer perhaps the clearest picture thus far of how broadly Facebook’s problems are known inside the company, up to the chief executive himself.”
“There is no perfection on social media as much as in any other walk of life,” Clegg told CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter. “And then what we have to do is address that.”
Teens who already have low esteem will go on social media and begin comparing themselves to others, Clegg said, and Facebook can’t control the “basic human tendency” of comparison.
“I don’t think it’s intuitively surprising that if you’re not feeling great about yourself already, then going onto social media can actually make you feel a bit worse,” Clegg said. In the wake of the WSJ’s reporting, Clegg said Facebook will introduce parental controls and tools that will be designed to nudge teens away from dwelling on certain content.
Controlling the fire
Stelter then asked Clegg why Facebook didn’t simply release the internal research itself, instead of being put in the position of having a whistleblower leak the documents.
The question of whether Facebook “deliberately brushed [the research] under the carpet has got literally got it back-to-front,” Clegg said. He added, “If we don’t want to address those questions we wouldn’t commission the research in the first place. We do it precisely so that we can work out in the minority of cases where people are not having a good experience on our platforms.” He added that Facebook publishes thousands of peer-reviewed research and confirmed that the company will continue to do research.
But Clegg acknowledged that Facebook has been facing mounting criticism for not being able to control what it has created.
“We’re never going to be absolutely on top of this 100% of the time, because this is an instantaneous and spontaneous form of communication,’ Clegg said. “There’s a world of a difference between doing a peer-reviewed exercise in cooperation with other academics and preparing papers internally to provoke and inform internal discussion.”
Clegg called this claim “ludicrous,” and said Facebook held no responsibility for that what happened that day.
“The responsibility for the violence of Jan. 6 lies squarely with the people who inflicted the violence and those who encouraged them, including President Trump,” Clegg said.
Clegg acknowledged that regulation of its platform could be “really helpful” if it relaxed privacy and data protection rules, which could allow Facebook external researchers to gain access to sensitive data.
“None of Facebook’s defenses cited a single, factual error in our reporting,” a statement from the Journal said. The news outlet said it has asked Facebook to release the internal research it reported on, which Clegg did not confirm Facebook would do.
Clegg’s responses and occasional stonewlaling prompted Stelter to say, “a part of me feels like I’m interviewing the head of a tobacco company right now.” Clegg responded that the comparison is “profoundly false.”
“There has to be a reason why a third of the world’s population enjoys using these apps,” Clegg said.