Facebook has come a long way since my first introduction to it in 7th grade, when the most popular thing to do was “Be a Fan” of relatable pages like “How do my earbuds get so tangled in my pocket, no matter what!” or “Sleeping on the cold side of the pillow.” I tried to seem popular by friending people I didn’t even know just so I would have a high friend count. Now, those “Fan pages” spam my timeline constantly and I get unwarranted pregnancy updates from people I could barely consider acquaintances.
More disturbing than my personal annoyances are the ways Facebook has evolved to control modern society, even impacting the most recent presidential election. “I Voted!” buttons that you can be added to a profile, viral political hoaxes, the purchase of ad space and pressure from the online community to support causes are only some of the ways Facebook elected Donald Trump as the 45th president of the US.
Russian operatives used Facebook to publicise 129 fake event announcements which drew the attention of nearly 340,000 users during the 2016 election
— Edward Hardy (@EdwardTHardy) January 27, 2018
A Florida woman who ran a Trump supporters page that unwittingly promoted a Russian-coordinated event on Facebook says she doesn’t believe that she was influenced by Kremlin-linked trolls https://t.co/DmgDRFRwyn pic.twitter.com/OAz5julCyA
— CNN (@CNN) February 21, 2018
It’s not surprising that a platform created to make the world more accessible became politically charged as major world powers increased their partisanship. There are ways to make Facebook a neutral and slightly less influential zone, though. Facebook must be more transparent with its users and researchers about its news feed algorithms, policies about targeted ads and offensive content, and verification processes of high-ranking accounts. A third-party investigation into these practices could help Facebook revamp their methods and create greater security. To build brand loyalty and trust again, Facebook must be honest with its users about why we see the things we do on the site and pledge itself to rebuilding a social network that is fun – not dangerous.