Facebook has released its official response to Netflix's "The Social Dilemma" — arguing the streaming service's documentary "buries substance in sensationalism," according to Facebook's official website.
Facebook confronts Netflix's social media documentary
Facebook argues Netflix's social media documentary lacks a "nuanced look" at technology, without which we're left with a "distorted view" of the inherent scapegoating activity often seen on and supported by social media platforms.
"Rather than offer a nuanced look at technology, it gives a distorted view of how social media platforms work to create a convenient scapegoat for what are difficult and complex societal problems," the response begins. "The film's creators do not include insights from those currently working at the companies or any experts that take a different view to the narrative put forward by the film."
Notably, Facebook argues, the documentary makes no mention of steps social media companies have already taken to address common issues on social media, and instead relies on commentary from people who haven't "been on the inside" for several years.
UPDATE Oct. 2, 2:30 PM EDT: 'Steps were taken,' Facebook argues
Facebook argued on, saying its News Feed product teams are not incentivized to build features capable of dragging out time spent on the company's apps. "[W]e want to make sure we offer value to people, not just drive usage."
The company said it changed its News Feed ranking system in 2018 to prioritize "meaningful social interactions," and reduce the priority of things like viral videos.
"This change led to a decrease of 50 [million] hours a day worth of time spent on Facebook," read the Facebook response. "That isn't the kind of thing you do simply trying to drive people to use your services more."
UPDATE Oct. 2, 3:15 PM EDT: Facebook aims to understand mental health 'impact'
Facebook also said it works with mental health experts including organizations and academic experts to understand "the impact that social media may have on people's well-being," according to the response.
Facebook also listed common measures like the activity dashboard and notification limits as significant steps to improve the social media platform. They also cited product teams dedicated to areas including "loneliness, racial justice, mentorship," and others.
Additionally, the company cited new forthcoming tools to "help people stay safe."
UPDATE Oct. 2, 3:30 PM EDT: 'You are not a product,' algorithms are not 'mad,' says Facebook
As an ad-supporting platform, Facebook offers free service to everyone. The company says this feature allows entrepreneurs and businesses to grow and compete with much bigger brands — offering reports to advertisers about what kind of people click-through the social media site's ads, without revealing identifying information, read Facebook's response.
Unlike dating apps, Uber, Amazon, or many other consumer-facing apps, Facebook uses algorithms to improve user experience, read the response from Facebook. The company also talked about improvements to its data security to maintain user privacy, worked to reduce polarization amid the elections, and took steps to fight "fake news," and other forms of misinformation, working with fact-checking partners to minimize bad information.
With so much at stake in the world — politically, ecologically, scientifically — Facebook seems to believe Netflix's "The Social Dilemma" misrepresents crucial steps the company says are substantial.
While we can't excuse Facebook's potential errors, engineers need to understand the inherent risks when taking a product of any kind public — which are often higher than we think. It's too soon to know if Netflix will double-down on its depiction of the social media site, but we'll continue with the latest coverage of this controversy.