Facebook Is Plagued With Hate Speech And Disinformation

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Facebook Is Plagued With Hate Speech And Disinformation
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Whitney Tilson’s email to investors discussing how Facebook neglected the rest of the world, fueling hate speech and violence in India; Porter Stansberry and Whitney Tilson debate Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB); Chamath Palihapitiya on Digital World Acquisition Corp (NASDAQ:DWAC); the 2021 Stansberry Conference & Alliance Meeting.

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How Facebook Neglected The Rest Of The World

1) I think Facebook (FB) and the major services it owns, Instagram and WhatsApp, do a lot of good. I use all three almost every day to help me connect with old friends, make new ones, and keep in touch with my friends and family.

But there's a very dark side to these services as well... As I wrote in my open letter to chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, "It's clear that you have unwittingly created a monster that is doing enormous damage to individuals, institutions, societies, and governments around the world."

Many Americans might view this as hyperbole because their feeds aren't filled with hatred and misinformation (mine isn't).

But it's a different story outside North America, where 90% of Facebook's users reside. As the latest documents released by whistleblower Frances Haugen reveal, despite being aware of serious problems for years, the company has failed to invest in people and artificial intelligence to eliminate some of the most toxic stuff globally. Here's a Washington Post article about it: How Facebook neglected the rest of the world, fueling hate speech and violence in India. Excerpt:

"Hate spreads like wildfire on Facebook," Junaid said. "None of the hate speech accounts were blocked."

For all of Facebook's troubles in North America, its problems with hate speech and disinformation are dramatically worse in the developing world. Internal company documents made public Saturday reveal that Facebook has meticulously studied its approach abroad – and was well aware that weaker moderation in non-English-speaking countries leaves the platform vulnerable to abuse by bad actors and authoritarian regimes.

Here's a related article in the New York Times: In India, Facebook Grapples With an Amplified Version of Its Problems. Excerpt:

On Feb. 4, 2019, a Facebook researcher created a new user account to see what it was like to experience the social media site as a person living in Kerala, India.

For the next three weeks, the account operated by a simple rule: Follow all the recommendations generated by Facebook's algorithms to join groups, watch videos and explore new pages on the site.

Porter Stansberry And Whitney Tilson Debate Facebook

2) I always like to consider – and share with my readers – well-articulated points of view that are contrary to my own. So with that in mind, here's what my old friend Porter Stansberry wrote to me in response to my recent e-mails about Facebook:

I'm writing only as a reader and not your business partner.

And I know we don't agree about lots of things or see the world in the same way. That's fine with me, of course. That's what makes a market and makes life interesting.

As your reader, I'm disappointed with your Facebook criticism. And [you've] lost credibilityhttps://www.valuewalk.com/lawmakers-send-facebook-stern-message-no-instagram-for-kids/ with me on this topic.

Here's why.

1. You seemed far too eager to believe the 'whistleblower' in a way that was devoid of any skepticism. [The] Critical part being 'devoid of skepticism.' [I] Can't tell you how many midlevel employees have been similarly critical of our leadership and business model – usually because of personal reasons that have nothing to do with their public comments.

Her view of the company and its products just seems woefully naive to me. Could she be right anyway? Maybe. But think about who owns Dow Jones. Shouldn't you at least acknowledge that a source made famous by a competing media conglomerate isn't likely to be telling the whole story?

Maybe I'm sensitive to this because of the hacks at Bloomberg and others [that] have taken on me over the years [with] half-truths without any context.

But you are saying she's the most credible person you've seen on 60 Minutes? Man, I feel like you've totally lost your judgment about this issue.

2. Saying Zuck is the most powerful person on the planet? That's laugh out loud ridiculous. Zuck has to depend on people choosing to use his products, none of which are necessary to life or happiness, and advertisers who are willing to pay for them. That's a tall order in a market with zero barriers to entry and competitors emerging constantly – like Snapchat and TikTok.

You might recall that there are several people who control thousands of nuclear warheads still hanging around. Seems like that's a lot more scary than a computer nerd who will post your pictures for you... doesn't it?

Anyways... just wanted you to know I'm reading and loving your work – even when I don't agree.

Your pal,

Porter

I replied:

Hi Porter,

To No. 1, that's a fair point. It's only one person. But I did find her awfully credible, and her story was very consistent with many other data points, as I explained in my follow-up e-mail [to it, I would add this story in Friday's Washington Post: New whistleblower claims Facebook allowed hate, illegal activity to go unchecked]. I also dedicated an entire e-mail to Zuckerberg and my friend's responses to her. (You may recall my friend called her "an idiot.") So, I feel like I fairly presented the other side.

Re. No. 2, I stand by my viewpoint. With 2.9 billion monthly users (37% of humans on earth), Facebook reaches more people, more often, for more time than any company or organization, past or present (for context, the largest religion in the world, Christianity, has 2.4 billion followers).

There have been plenty of studies showing how even small tweaks to its algorithms regarding what type of content users see can have a significant influence on what they think and do.

And Zuckerberg controls Facebook completely.

No, he's not the President and doesn't control the U.S. military or have his finger on the nuclear button, but given that the last two elections were decided by fewer than 80,000 total votes in 2016 and 44,000 in 2020 in three states that determined the winner, I'd argue that Zuckerberg, if he wanted, could decide who becomes president.

Thanks for the feedback – it's always welcome!

Best,

Whitney

Chamath Palihapitiya On DWAC

3) Speaking of presenting the other side...

In Friday's e-mail, I heaped scorn on the latest foolish meme stock, Digital World Acquisition (DWAC), writing that "this is one of the stupidest things I've ever seen and that this stock is going to implode, likely within days."

The "King of SPACs," Chamath Palihapitiya, has a more nuanced view that he discussed with Internet entrepreneur, angel investor, and author Jason Calacanis in the duo's latest All-In podcast which is posted on YouTube here.

The 2021 Stansberry Conference & Alliance Meeting In Las Vegas

4) And speaking of Porter, he and I both spoke this morning at the 2021 Stansberry Conference & Alliance Meeting in Las Vegas. I'll be reporting on some of the highlights in my e-mails this week.

Best regards,

Whitney Tilson

Updated on

Jacob Wolinsky is the founder of ValueWalk.com, a popular value investing and hedge fund focused investment website. Jacob worked as an equity analyst first at a micro-cap focused private equity firm, followed by a stint at a smid cap focused research shop. Jacob lives with his wife and four kids in Passaic NJ. - Email: jacob(at)valuewalk.com - Twitter username: JacobWolinsky - Full Disclosure: I do not purchase any equities anymore to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest and because at times I may receive grey areas of insider information. I have a few existing holdings from years ago, but I have sold off most of the equities and now only purchase mutual funds and some ETFs. I also own a few grams of Gold and Silver
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