Facebook Criticizes ’The Social Dilemma’ for ‘Distorted View’ of Social Media Issues

Tech giant outlines several issues it has with the new documentary — and calls out Netflix at one point

Facebook on Friday aired a number of grievances with Netflix’s new documentary “The Social Dilemma,” saying the film — which takes a critical look at the impact of social media — “buries the substance in sensationalism.”

The tech giant, in an un-bylined company blog post, pushed back against several claims in the film, including that it’s built to incentivize users to spend more time on the platform. Facebook said that its algorithms are designed to improve the user experience and showcase content users may find interesting — something Netflix also does with its own recommendation algorithm, Facebook noted.

And while “The Social Dilemma” includes commentary from a number of former Facebook employees, the social network criticized the film for not including insight from people currently working at the company.

“Rather than offer a nuanced look at technology, it gives a distorted view of how social media platforms work to create a convenient scapegoat for what are difficult and complex societal problems,” Facebook said. “The film’s creators do not include insights from those currently working at the companies or any experts that take a different view to the narrative put forward by the film.They also don’t acknowledge–critically or otherwise–the efforts already taken by companies to address many of the issues they raise.”

The blog post goes on to list seven points where the film was misleading, according to the company.

Among the key points made by Facebook: it is working to decrease polarization and foster “meaningful social interactions,”; it takes data security seriously, despite what the documentary suggests, and has called on government regulators to create stricter data protection laws; Facebook has made fighting misinformation on the platform a high priority; and it has made strides to better protect users against election misinformation in recent years.

“We’ve acknowledged that we made mistakes in 2016. Yet the film leaves out what we have done since 2016 to build strong defenses to stop people from using Facebook to interfere in elections,” the blog post said. “We’ve improved our security and now have some of the most sophisticated teams and systems in the world to prevent attacks. We’ve removed more than 100 networks worldwide engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior over the past couple of years, including ahead of other major global elections since 2016.”

Last week, “The Social Dilemma” director Jeff Orlowski said social media companies like Facebook and Twitter are”designed” to exploit users’ brain chemistry in order to keep them glued to their phones.

Orlowski, while discussing his film with TheWrap founder Sharon Waxman, said the underlying, sinister truth about the world’s biggest apps is that they’re akin to drugs.

“The word addiction gets used in very different ways, and in my mind, that word itself is not the point,” Orlowski said. “The point is, they were designed to get us to come back. It’s to figure out how to reverse-engineer what we’re most vulnerable to, most susceptible to, to come back. And what we are seeing is a dopamine response in the brain.”

Facebook’s blog post on Friday said these claims are unfounded and that it’s worked with “leading mental health experts, organizations and academics” to better understand how social media impacts users.

You can read the full rebuttal here.

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