Taking Back Our Stolen History
Report: Facebook Is The Perfect Technocracy
Report: Facebook Is The Perfect Technocracy

Report: Facebook Is The Perfect Technocracy

Let’s stipulate that Facebook is not a country, that real governments fulfill many more functions, and that people are not citizens of their social networks.

Nonetheless, 900 million human beings do something like live in the blue-and-white virtual space of the world’s largest structured web of people. And those people get into disputes that they expect to be adjudicated. They have this expectation in part because Facebook has long said it wants to create a safe environment for connecting with other people. (How else can you get people to be “more open and connected“?) But people also want someone to be in charge, they want an authority to whom they can appeal if some other person is being a jerk.

Except in this case, the someone really is a corporate person. So when you report something or someone reports something of yours, it is Facebook that makes the decision about what’s been posted, even if we know that somewhere down the line, some human being has to embody the corporate we, if only for long enough to click a button.

Any individual decision made by Facebook’s team — like taking down this photo of a gay couple kissing — is easy to question. Ars Technica’s Ken Fisher detailed a whole bunch of one-off problems that people have encountered with Facebook’s reporting system. In each, there is an aggrieved party, but we’re only hearing one side of the conflict when these problems bubble up. Across many single events, you have two people (or entities like businesses) with conflicting desires. This is a classic case where you need some sort of government.

It’s not hard to imagine making one or 20 or even 200 decisions about photographs or status updates in a week, but it’s mindboggling to consider that Facebook has to process 2 million reports per week, and that’s not including simple “mark as spam” messages.

How do you design a system to deal with that workload? I spoke with James Mitchell, who helms what Facebook calls “site integrity” within its user-operations department, and Jud Hoffman, the company’s global policy manager about the reporting process. They are the architects of Facebook’s technocracy.

“The amount of thought and debate that goes into the process of creating and managing these rules is not that different from a legislative and judicial process all rolled up into one,” Hoffman, a lawyer, told me. “And James has the executive/judicial element. I don’t think it is a stretch to think about this in a governance context, but it’s a different form and we take it really, really seriously.”

Continue Reading in The Atlantic…

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