Facebook provides me with space to work, to express my ideas, and as a mother to my six-year-old daughter I find myself unable to predict the impact my use of this platform will have on my family for the rest of my life.
The company promotes “engagement” at the expense of inclusivity. Unlike more traditional media, Facebook products increase polarization and manage our thoughts through algorithms.
This doesn’t absolve Facebook of responsibility. If this scale of data collection doesn’t create a worrisome precedent, I don’t know what does. Facebook contributes to a society beset by sexual violence, facing questions about the pervasiveness of domestic violence and maintaining records of significant data breaches involving children.
Failing to recognize its potential for harm to minors in the US means failing to understand both the magnitude of the problem and the ways we can stem the tide.
The company must be made to prioritize a child’s privacy by creating a policy for their use of services and disclosing it to the user upfront. Parents should be allowed to provide basic consent without compromising their child’s information.
At the same time, the company must focus its research on the issues of child addiction and harassment, which it continues to ignore. Children should not be denied the same privilege to experience freedom as adults without appropriate oversight. These are also topics that Facebook should dedicate significant resources to research and funding.
Companies like Facebook with substantial technology innovations have an opportunity to empower an entire generation. By allowing our contributions to society to come at the expense of our children and deflating distrust, Facebook should show more promise than it has so far.
With this platform, how will children of color be positioned to influence the world? How will they know the right to trust the truth in the battle for social justice when they are taught to distrust themselves and their leaders?
The idea that people of color’s connections are impacted by their ethnicity is deeply felt by me. The vast majority of my personal and professional networks are people of color and it is a powerful engine for connecting us. My work with minority community organizations has exposed me to the rich array of experiences of this highly educated and economically disenfranchised population.
When I grew up I had to decide whether my preference to choose people of color over white men would mean I would not be accepted as a member of a boys’ club or would I become a member of a fraternity. When you work on the frontlines of the working class, many of your relationships are built around bars, parties and other factors that privilege white men over others.
At face value, Facebook may seem like a community with many different types of values. The ways in which its products exist to promote creativity in others and my personal attempts to find a space for me reflect how its technology can help us share ideas, concerns and disagreements in an interesting, creative way.
Frances Haugen, author, feminist essayist and former staff writer for The Atlantic’s ProPublica, will be speaking at the London School of Economics on 7 May.