Because Facebook has a problem with hate


On February 13, 2017 Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg received a letter from Italy. “In public speech hatred is rampant” was the meaning of the message. The signature, that of the President of the Chamber Laura Boldrini. Nothing has changed and on 30 January the Minister for Innovation Paola Pisano set up a task force of experts to understand how to combat hatred on social media. Yet it was easy: it was enough to hit Facebook on revenues, cut advertising. On June 17, six of the major civil rights organizations in the United States launched the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign, just make money on hatred. Facebook collects $ 70 billion a year with advertising, it was written on the poster page published by the Los Angeles Times, and uses it “to amplify the voices of racists, violent people and denialists”. A heavy accusation that asked companies for a strong symbolic action: to suspend advertising in July. From that appeal a movement was generated: the advertising boycott of the American multinationals every day added important names, above all Coca Cola, and now the first European companies have added (the German Adidas and Puma while not yet registered Italian companies). The red alarm went off on Facebook: the news is full of details of excited meetings with advertisers to convince them that the platform is doing everything possible to counter violent posts and prevent them from appearing alongside glossy spots. It does not seem that it is enough: someone has already announced that the boycott will not last a single month but until Facebook has created a barrier to hatred.
Immediately a network of profiles linked to an extreme right-wing organization that incites the civil war has been deactivated, but even this will not be enough, in fact the game is much more complicated. Hoping that Facebook can magically contain the hatred that reigns in certain areas of our real life is exaggerated and therefore wrong because it means ignoring its true causes; but pretending that Facebook does not amplify it is instead a must because doing it poisons us. The problem arises from the fact that the business model of social networks, the reason why machines that produce mountains of money are formidable, is engagement, or the fact that the algorithms automatically show us the contents that will make the most traffic, those that will keep us glued to the site. Once it was said that “a falling tree makes more noise than a growing forest”: we are like this, it is a topic that concerns the cognitive psychology of human beings, this was not invented by Facebook. But it is thanks to Facebook that we have the feeling that many trees fall with the result that many more people try to cut them down instead of planting others. A fight, a threat, a violence or even just a hoax are the easiest way to catch our attention; but this relentlessly changes our feelings or our world view; and quickly destroys social cohesion. This yes, must change. And a month’s boycott won’t be enough.

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