Social media giant Facebook faced fresh allegations Monday that its angry algorithms amplified outrage over agreeability. These revelations are among the latest to emerge out of the Facebook Papers, a trove of internal company documents made public by the Facebook Whistleblower.
Oddly, the tech giant has responded by using this new round of allegations to condition its algorithm into promoting even more anger and hostility, creating a seemingly infinite vortex of outrage. “When the world’s throwing a hissy fit, we’re down in the basement printing money,” joked Facebook communications official Tucker Bounds in an internal email.
According to the Washington Post, Facebook engineers gave more points to news stories that elicited an angry response over ones that garnered a ‘like’ by a five to one margin. This ranking system prompted the company’s cranky old algorithm to promote stories that incited anger over all the feel good, human interest stories the media churns out everyday.
“In turn, this has caused the world to become engulfed in flames,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee at a hearing Monday. “There’s a lot to discover in these papers about how the platform promotes extremism and hurts our communities, but here’s what is clear: Facebook knew.”
Another revelation in the Facebook Papers exposes efforts early on to build an algorithm for promoting and disseminating information on the platform.
“They basically sent teams of researchers out to coffee shops to observe what types of news stories got cranky, old retired dudes all riled up,” internal memos revealed. “They built the algorithm based on what they discovered conducting these ‘field expeditions.’”
Facebook is facing intense pressure from congress and media outlets regarding why they would knowingly choose to promote outrage over sensible, mild-mannered discussions of the day’s top stories.
“We’re just flabbergasted that Facebook would intentionally encourage outrage just for clicks and shares,” said Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s Reliable Sources. “At least when we in the traditional media promote hysteria over measured conversations, it’s because we don’t have a clue what we’re doing. Facebook knew exactly what they were doing.”