Facebook’s Future and Our Democracy

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Facebook’s Future and Our Democracy

GUEST: Mara Einstein, professor of media studies at Queens College, City University of New York, and an independent marketing consultant. She has been working in, or writing about, media and marketing for more than 25 years, and been an executive at NBC, MTV Networks, and at major advertising agencies. She is the author of a number of books including, Black Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content Marketing, and the Covert World Of the Digital Sell.

BACKGROUND: Facebook is under fire once more, this time for the role that it might have played in the 2016 US Presidential election. In early September Facebook revealed that accounts linked to Russia had been responsible for polarizing ads during the campaign. Congressional committees investigating the influence of outside actors in the election have asked for the data to be turned over and Facebook has decided to comply.

Meanwhile Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday released a list of 9 steps his company would take to make the platform more immune to undue attempts to influence elections.

Also in September Propublica published a damning report about how Facebook has ad categories that are incredible anti-Semitic. The sheer volume of ads and users that the company contends with means that sometimes its algorithms slip. The company removed the categories after being contacted by reporters.

Given its outsize role in so many people communicating with one another, is Facebook reaching a point where it should be considered part of our commons rather than a profit-based corporation?