Facebook on Monday published an essay from its civic engagement chief Samidh Chakrabarti as part of a wider effort to address some "hard questions" related to the company's activities. The latest addition to the ongoing series deals with the effects the world's largest social media network and similar platforms have on democracies around the world and is apologetic in its approach, acknowledging Facebook's missteps during the 2016 presidential election in the United States which placed it in the middle of a major controversy criticized by both sides of the political spectrum. Mr. Chakrabarti wrote he can never be sure "the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives" in regards to Facebook's global political influence but concluded that uncertainty creates a moral obligation for everyone at Facebook to work harder and identify how its platform is being used so that they can make sure its online communities are "representative, civil, and trustworthy."
Facebook Global Politics and Government Outreach Director Katie Harbath said the "Hard Questions" series is meant to spark a discourse on a number of topics that the company believes must be discussed moving forward, with the ordeal surrounding the so-called "fake news" being one of them. Ms. Harbath reiterated a number of sentiments previously expressed by co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, stating that Facebook should have been quicker to identify and react to the dissemination of misleading, inaccurate, and outright false information on its network during the 2016 election. Mr. Chakrabarti's lengthy essay added the Menlo Park, California-based social media giant won't "pretend to have all the answers" but will strive to do its best in order to find them moving forward and avoid enabling online echo chambers.
Ultimately, Facebook's civic engagement head believes connectivity has the potential to lead to a more democratic society but as such an outcome isn't certain, he and his team vowed to continue exploring their options in order to continue pursuing it. Mr. Zuckerberg's latest New Year's resolution was dedicated to fixing every "important" issue about Facebook, with the fight against fake news being named as one of the most prominent problems. As part of what's widely believed to be a related move, the company recently announced a major redesign of its News Feed set to purge it from the majority of content from publishers, prompting criticism from the media industry whose advertising revenue it's already been eating into for years.