Zuckerberg ignores another whistleblower warning about predators targeting children.
The CEO of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, has had a host of issues with his two social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram.
In 2021, there was the dubiously motivated Frances Haugen, who blew the whistle against Facebook to call out its hiding of internal statistics on misinformation. In 2021, another Meta whistleblower publicized the fact that Instagram knows just how harmful its platform is to the mental health and well-being of young people. In 2023, several states are suing the social media mother company. Earlier this summer, Wall Street Journal investigative reporters along with teams from Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst uncovered that Instagram’s algorithms actually connected pedophiles to one another and essentially created an Instagram pedo ring that is preying on the youngest social media users.
Now, Zuckerberg has a new whistleblower. A former Facebook employee and Instagram-hired consultant decided it was time to expose yet another horrific part of the way Instagram preys on teens. Arturo Bejar has worked on and off for the two Meta social media platforms since 2009. Bejar felt that he needed to intervene because his 14-year-old daughter and her friends had been the constant recipients of unsolicited and unwanted sexual advances from other users (many of whom were adults). When he brought this to the company’s attention, it hired him as a consultant to investigate.
Bejar’s findings were devastatingly sad. According to The Wall Street Journal, “One statistic stood out: One in eight users under the age of 16 said they had experienced unwanted sexual advances on the platform over the previous seven days.”
Armed with his findings, Bejar was confronted again and again with two main issues blocking any real change in Instagram policies. First, these unsolicited advances weren’t against community rules and guidelines … though a picture of the male sex organ should be against the pornography standards. Second, and perhaps the hardest hurdle, Meta’s internal statistics didn’t match Bejar’s findings.
This isn’t surprising because the process for obtaining those statistics is largely automated and no longer had people really reviewing flagged material. As the Journal explains: “The systems didn’t catch anywhere near the majority of banned content — only the majority of what the company ultimately removed. As a data scientist warned Guy Rosen, Facebook’s head of integrity at the time, Meta’s classifiers were reliable enough to remove only a low single-digit percentage of hate speech with any degree of precision.”
When you combine that mismatch in internal statistics versus Bejar’s with the egos of the people who created the automation that is supposed to catch this content, you run into a brick wall. The result? Kids are assaulted with grotesque propositions, and the only punishment for such lewd behavior is that the kid can block them.
Ultimately, the result of Bejar’s two-year consulting gig was empty promises from executives and nothing else happening. In fact, the team he worked with during that period were almost all let go during Meta’s downsizing.
While this author agrees with the sentiment that this is yet more egregious behavior on the part of Meta and Instagram against kids and should be stopped, two thoughts spring to mind. First, isn’t it the parents’ job to protect their children from being on social media in the first place? Even Biden’s Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a warning on that count.
Second, what’s the potential ulterior motive behind yet another whistleblower coming forward? If the motive is purely for Instagram to make changes to protect its youngest users, then good for Bejar. But Meta is now made infamous for how much it suppressed speech generally in favor of one political party’s agenda, not only during COVID but also during the 2020 elections. Is this another ploy to have the government regulate the social media platforms through a more sympathetic plight (i.e., “protect the children”)?
Every social media platform’s primary goal is to entice and keep users on the site for as long as possible. Big Tech giants collect that data and sell it to the highest bidder. They don’t care how old the person is; they are a commodity. Even if social media platforms were motivated to make a change, they may not really be capable of policing tens of millions of people. The issues are simply too large and too widespread. Perhaps the answer should be a shutdown of these platforms, but that genie is already out of the bottle.
If this is another attempt by the government to weasel its way into controlling these platforms (this time legitimately), they are going to run into the exact same issues. Control is the point for both entities.
The party that should have the most control in this situation, the parents, should get their kids off social media. That is a great place to start.
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