This change is not apparent anywhere else than Facebook, which for many years considered itself a kind of human communication platform. Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, often talks about the principle of “friction-free” design – making things as easy as possible for users. The other executives I spoke to seemed to believe that in the end, Facebook would become a kind of self-police machine, with artificial intelligence doing most of the bad work and humans interfering as much as possible.
But before the 2020 election, Facebook went in the opposite direction. This created a new, more complex approval process for political advertisers, and prevented new political advertisements in the period following Election Day. This provoked false claims and set up a “viral circuit-breaker” to give truth-tellers time to evaluate suspicious stories. To reduce the likelihood of violent unrest, it temporarily suspends its recommendation mechanism for certain types of private groups. (Thursday, The New York Times reported it The company was taking over Other temporary measures to reduce election-related misinformation, including adding more friction to the post-sharing process.)
All of these changes may actually make Facebook safer. But they also involve re-dialing the features that have driven the development of the site over the years. This is an act of self-awareness, just as Ferrari realized it could prevent its cars from crashing, by replacing the engines with co-cart motors.
“If you look at Facebook’s election response, it’s important to point out more traffic and attention to these people – managed centers,” said Eli Bariser, a longtime media executive and activist working on a new project, Civic Signals. It seeks to redesign social media as a public space. “This is a sign that, in the end, when you have the most important information, there is no alternative to human judgment.”
Twitter, which has been trying to make communications as frictional as possible for years, has been trying to pump the brakes for most of the past four years. It brought in more evaluators, rearranged its rules, and placed more human oversight on aspects such as trend topics. In Months leading up to the election, Which banned political advertising, and disabled sharing features in tweets containing misinformation about election results, including some from the president’s account.