from the incentives-come-in-many-forms dept
One of the most frustrating claims that critics of Section 230 make is that because of Section 230 the big internet companies have no incentive to deal with awful content (abuse, harassment, bigotry, lies, etc.). Yet, over and over again we see why that’s not at all true. First of all, there’s strong incentive to deal with crap content on your platform because if you don’t your users will go elsewhere. So the userbase itself is incentive. Then, as we’ve discussed, there are incentives from advertisers who don’t want their ads showing up next to such junk and can pressure companies to change.
Finally, there are the employees of these companies. While so much of the narrative around internet companies focuses (somewhat ridiculously) on the larger-than-life profiles of their founders/CEOs, the reality is that there are thousands of employees at these companies, many of whom don’t want to be doing evil shit or enabling evil shit. And they have influence. Over the past few years, there have been multiple examples of employees revolting and pushing back against company decisions on things like government contracts and surveillance.
And, now they’re pushing back on the wider impact of these companies. That’s a Buzzfeed article detailing how a bunch of employees inside Facebook are getting fed up with the company’s well-documented problems, its failure to change, and its failure to take into account its broader impact.
?This time, our response feels different,? wrote Facebook engineer Dan Abramov in a June 26 post on Workplace, the company?s internal communications platform. ?I?ve taken some [paid time off] to refocus, but I can?t shake the feeling that the company leadership has betrayed the trust my colleagues and I have placed in them.?
Messages like those from Wang and Abramov illustrate how Facebook?s handling of the president?s often divisive posts has caused a sea change in its ranks and led to a crisis of confidence in leadership, according to interviews with current and former employees and dozens of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. The documents ? which include company discussion threads, employee survey results, and recordings of Zuckerberg ? reveal that the company was slow to take down ads with white nationalist and Nazi content reported by its own employees. They demonstrate how the company?s public declarations about supporting racial justice causes are at odds with policies forbidding Facebookers from using company resources to support political matters. They show Zuckerberg being publicly accused of misleading his employees. Above all, they portray a fracturing company culture.
The examples in the Buzzfeed article may not be representative of how all employees feel, nor is it necessarily indicative that Facebook will definitely change its policies one way or the other. It’s just highlighting that pressure to be better, to be responsible, and to build better products comes from all over — and in Silicon Valley many employees came up with the belief (cynical or not) that they’re here to change the world for the better. And when they realize they may not be doing that, many will speak out and push back.
And that is likely to have an impact over time: especially when the big tech companies are fighting over top talent, and desperately trying to hire the best engineers possible. If those engineers speak up and speak out, it can create very strong incentives for companies to change and to improve — all without needing to take an axe to Section 230, which has little to nothing to do with all of this.