Why Do Facebook’s Algorithms Keep Abetting Racism? [Updated]
Why do Facebook’s algorithms keep abetting racism? The more specific answer is hidden inside Facebook’s black box, but the broader answer may be: It’s profitable. Each Facebook user is a potential source of revenue for the company. And the more they use the site, the more ads they engage, the more shareable content they produce, and the more user insight they can generate for Facebook. When users reveal themselves as racist, anti-semitic, and so on, what obligation does Facebook have to remove them or frustrate its own revenue structure? Does removing or censoring users violate their first amendment rights?
In both the original Pro Publica report and the follow-up from Slate, researchers have called for a public database of Facebook’s ad-targeting categories and a broader, de-automation push across the company. At this point, Facebook can no longer deny the sore need for an ethical and moralistic compass somewhere within its advertising business; the company’s algorithms and its racist and anti-semitic controversies are linked. It’s time for an enormous paradigmatic shift towards accountability, out in the open, and not another tepid half step from Facebook within the comfort of its black box.