(Breitabrt) – Following a series of damning reports from the Wall Street Journal called the “Facebook Files,” members of the tech press are calling on Facebook to fully release the internal documents that the company claims are being taken out of context.
The Verge reports that as Facebook attempts to downplay and rebut a series of reports from the Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files,” many in the media are calling on the tech giant to fully release the internal documents cited by the WSJ.
In a report titled “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show,” the Wall Street Journal claims that Facebook is aware that its photo-sharing app Instagram can have a negative effect on the body image of young women.
The WSJ wrote:
“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.
“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”
Facebook is now pushing back on claims made by the WSJ that Facebook was aware of the harm that Instagram could have on teenagers yet “has made minimal efforts to address these issues and plays them down in public.”
Pratiti Raychoudhury, Vice President, Head of Research at Facebook, states in a recent post to Facebook’s Newsroom that the WSJ’s claims are “not accurate” and that the WSJ’s interpretation of the data it had from Facebook was incorrect. As a result, the tech press is now calling for Facebook to provide more information in order to outline how the WSJ’s interpretation of Facebook’s data could be misleading.
Casey Newton of The Verge outlined three reasons why Facebook should release the files, writing:
One, the files are in the public interest. Among other things, according to the Journal, they contain discussions of political parties who changed their policies based on changes to Facebook’s algorithms, they document negative effects of using Instagram on mental health, and they reveal that the company devotes vastly more moderation resources to the United States than the rest of the world. On these subjects and more, the public simply has a right to know what Facebook does. One frustration I’ve had over the past week is that Facebook continues to be focused on the public-relations dimension of the story, when the public interest is much more important.
Two, the files will likely come out soon anyway: the whistleblower who leaked them to the Journal is apparently cooperating with Congress. Copies were shown in advance of publication to various researchers. The Journal may yet release them itself (I wish it would.) In any case, it seems likely that they are going to be available for all of us to read soon. Facebook could generate some (admittedly minor) amount of goodwill by doing it voluntarily. (Company spokesman Andy Stone told me the company is sharing the decks with Congress this week.)
Three, Facebook’s primary complaint about the series is that reporters allegedly took key points out of context. The only way to credibly make that charge is to provide people with the full context. It’s not enough for the company’s head of research to describe one set of slides; to have an honest conversation about all this, we should all be looking at the same set of documents. If, as Facebook says, the majority of the research shows benign or even positive effects, it should have all the more reason to want us to read them.