I haven’t been reading all of the articles now coming out of the so-called “Facebook Papers”. But this article from the Post captures some important issues, ones that aren’t tied necessarily to the specific revelations getting the most attention but a general picture. There are two big focuses to the piece. The first is that for a company of its scale Facebook still has an extremely top-down management structure. Basically Zuckerberg is deep in the details and makes all the big decisions. The second is that he has repeatedly shot down internal ‘harm reduction’ proposals because they threaten core engagement metrics.
I noted a few weeks back that these tradeoffs get to the heart of Facebook’s problem and the heart of what the site is. The harm is inherent to Facebook’s business model. When you find ways to reduce harm they’re almost always at the expense of engagement metrics the maximization of which are the goal of basically everything Facebook does. The comparison may be a loaded or contentious one. But it is a bit like the Tobacco companies. The product is the problem, not how it’s used or abused. It’s the product. That’s a challenging place for a company to be.