I think the article and the report (which is embedded in the article and which Joseph linked directly here, too) give better explanations for why this is the way it is. The Troll Farms themselves may be run or funded by government agencies, but the likelihood of them being US agencies seems slim, given their poor English among many other reasons. In fact, we know from the article that there is a distinct possibility of a connection to the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA). Russia has a long and public history of using this sort of information campaign against the USA, and the motives for that are obvious. This is not to say that Western countries don’t use the same tactics. Nor is it to say that Western countries wouldn’t use those tactics on their own people.
But the answer to why FB is this way is simple. Money. Occam’s Razor says we should prefer the simpler solution, and money is indeed the simplest solution. In fact the Bible warns us how the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.
This is a report by somebody relatively high up in FB. He’s clear on why the pages succeed: FB is optimized for engagement, rather than quality. Why? Because that means people stay on longer and they can get more ads in front of our eyes, making more money. As the author of the original report points out, this is not the first time that media has been overrun by engagement optimization or click (purchase) bait. Newspapers managed to right themselves, by separating out into two groups—those going for a quick buck via sensationalism, and those looking to become trusted by doing actual reporting. I suspect social media will do the same. But the only reason they will do so is because of the same sort of backlash that newspapers faced. If anybody wants to see FB change for the better, get off FB. The sooner you get off FB, the sooner they will feel it in their wallet. And the sooner they feel it in their wallet, the sooner they will suddenly find it in them to optimize for something other than engagement.
The goal here is not to talk about “the media’s” conclusions. The goal is to talk about Christians and FB. My conclusion is that Christians are gullible, and Christians should get off FB. Granted, I thought that prior to reading the report and article. Still, this situation makes clear the extent to which FB determines what you see and what you read, not you. And when you realize that FB’s goals are contrary to your own, and then you realize that they are in control, I’m hoping that it will wake more Christians up to the fact that they are in an abusive relationship, and simply walk away.
By the way, the article I linked to is the MIT Review article that originally broke the story and provided the report publicly. It both listed all the pages, and included the full report, so I’m guessing you didn’t get a chance to read it. If you do want to talk about its conclusions, I thought they were so tame as to be inarguable.
“Instead of users choosing to receive content from these actors, it is our platform that is choosing to give [these troll farms] an enormous reach,” wrote the report’s author, Jeff Allen, a former senior-level data scientist at Facebook.
And in spite of FB’s claim that they’ve "taken aggressive enforcement actions against these kinds of foreign and domestic inauthentic groups,”
In the process of fact-checking this story shortly before publication, MIT Technology Review found that five of the troll-farm pages mentioned in the report remained active.
Here’s their take on whether it’s still a problem today:
Facebook’s recent controversial “Widely Viewed Content” report suggests that some of the core vulnerabilities the troll farms exploited also remain.
Then they conclude with this quote:
the report “speaks to a lot of the deeper systemic problems with the platform and their algorithm in the way that they promote certain kinds of content to certain users, all just based on this underlying value of growth.” If those are not fixed, they will continue to create distorted, economic incentives for bad actors, she adds: “That’s the problem.”
I’m struggling to find anything unwarranted.