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Facebook, in Cross Hairs After Election, Is Said to Question Its Influence

SAN FRANCISCO — Late on Tuesday night, as it became clear that Donald J. Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton to win the presidential election, a private chat sprang up on Facebook among several vice presidents and executives of the social network.

旧金山——周二深夜,当唐纳德·J·特朗普(Donald J. Trump)击败希拉里·克林顿(Hillary Clinton),赢得总统选举的形势变得已经很明显时,Facebook的几名副总裁和高管在这个社交网络上进行了一番私密谈天。

What role, they asked each other, had their company played in the election’s outcome?


Facebook’s top executives concluded that they should address the issue and assuage staff concerns at a quarterly all-hands meeting. They also called a smaller meeting with the company’s policy team, according to three people who saw the private chat and are familiar with the decisions; they requested anonymity because the discussion was confidential.


Facebook has been in the eye of a postelection storm for the last few days, embroiled in accusations that it helped spread misinformation and fake news stories that influenced how the American electorate voted。 The online conversation among Facebook’s executives on Tuesday, which was one of several private message threads that began among the company’s top ranks, showed that the social network was internally questioning what its responsibilities might be。


Even as Facebook has outwardly defended itself as a nonpartisan information source — Mark. Zuckerberg, chairman and chief executive, said at a conference on Thursday that Facebook affecting the election was “a pretty crazy idea” — many company executives and employees have been asking one another if, or how, they shaped the minds, opinions and votes of Americans.

即使Facebook对外宣称自己是一个无党派的信息来源——董事长兼首席执行官马克·扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)在上周四的一次会议上说,觉得Facebook影响了选举是“很疯狂的想法”——但公司的很多高管和员工都一直在询问彼此,这个平台是否以及如何影响了美国人的想法、观点和投票。

Some employees are worried about the spread of racist and so-called alt-right memes across the network, according to interviews with 10 current and former Facebook employees. Others are asking whether they contributed to a “filter bubble” among users who largely interact with people who share the same beliefs.


Even more are reassessing Facebook’s role as a media company and wondering how to stop the distribution of false information。 Some employees have been galvanized to send suggestions to product managers on how to improve Facebook’s powerful news feed: the streams of status updates, articles, photos and videos that users typically spend the most time interacting with。


“A fake story claiming Pope Francis — actually a refugee advocate — endorsed Mr. Trump was shared almost a million times, likely visible to tens of millions,” Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who studies the social impact of technology, said of a recent post on Facebook. “Its correction was barely heard. Of course Facebook had significant influence in this last election’s outcome.”

“一个虚假的消息称教皇方济各(Pope Francis)——实际上他是难民的支持者——支持特朗普,这个消息被分享了近100万次,可能看来它的人有数千万之多,”北卡罗来纳大学(University of North Carolina)研究科技对社会影响的副教授泽伊内普·蒂费克奇(Zeynep Tufekci)谈来近期在Facebook上流行的一篇帖子时说。“对它的纠正几乎没有人看来。显然Facebook对这次选举的结果产生了很大的影响。 纽约时报中英文网

This image of Facebook as a partisan influencer and distributor of bad information is at odds with how the company views itself, former and current employees said。 Chris Cox, a senior vice president of product and one of Mr。 Zuckerberg’s top lieutenants, has long described Facebook as an unbiased and blank canvas to give people a voice。 Employees and executives genuinely believed they were well-intentioned and acting as a force for good, these people said。

接受摘访的员工和前员工说,Facebook作为党派影响力和不良信息传播者的形象,与公司对自身的形象塑造并不一致。Facebook产品高级副总裁、扎克伯格的高级副手之一克里斯·考克斯(Chris Cox)长期以来都将Facebook形容为一张公平的空白画布,让人们可以发出自己的声音。这些人说,员工和治理人员真的相信他们的动机是好心的,行为是向善的。

Facebook declined to comment beyond a previously released statement that it was “just one of many ways people received their information — and was one of the many ways people connected with their leaders, engaged in the political process and shared their views。”


On Saturday night, Mr。 Zuckerberg posted a lengthy status update to his Facebook page with some of his thoughts on the election。


“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. “Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”


He added: “I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves。”


The postelection questioning caps a turbulent year for Facebook, during which its power to influence what its 1.79 billion users watch, read and believe has increasingly been criticized. Almost half of American adults rely on Facebook as a source of news, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. And Facebook often emphasizes its ability to sway its users with advertisers, portraying itself as an effective mechanism to help promote their products.

选后遭遇的质疑让Facebook经历的动荡的一年达至顶峰,在此期间它可以影响17.9亿用户观看、阅读和挑选相信的内容的能力,愈发受来指责。皮尤研究中心(Pew Research Center)的一项研究显示,几乎一半的美国成年人依靠Facebook作为自己的新闻来源。Facebook也经常向广告商强调它影响用户的能力,将自己描述成一套可以帮助他们推销产品的有效机制。


Inside Facebook, employees have become more aware of the company’s role in media after several incidents involving content the social network displayed in users’ news feeds。


In May, the company grappled with accusations that politically biased employees were censoring some conservative stories and websites in Facebook’s Trending Topics section, a part of the site that shows the most talked-about stories and issues on Facebook。 Facebook later laid off the Trending Topics team。


In September, Facebook came under fire for removing a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a naked 9-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, as she fled napalm bombs during the Vietnam War。 The social network took down the photo for violating its nudity standards, even though the picture was an illustration of the horrors of war rather than child pornography。

今年9月,Facebook又因删掉一张曾荣获普利策奖的照片而饱受攻击。照片显示的是浑身赤裸的9岁女孩潘金福(Phan Thi Kim Phuc)在越战期间逃避汽油弹的情景。这家社交媒体网站删掉这张照片,是因为它超过了网站的裸露标准,尽管它生动地出现了战争的恐惧,而非儿童色情作品。

Both those incidents seemed to worsen a problem of fake news circulating on Facebook. The Trending Topics episode paralyzed Facebook’s willingness to make any serious changes to its products that might compromise the perception of its objectivity, employees said. The “napalm girl” incident reminded many insiders at Facebook of the company’s often tone-deaf approach to nuanced situations.


Throughout, Mr. Zuckerberg has defended Facebook as a place where people can share all opinions. When employees objected in October to the stance of Peter Thiel, a Facebook board member, in supporting Mr. Trump, Mr. Zuckerberg said, “We care deeply about diversity” and reiterated that the social network gave everyone the power to share their experiences.

在整个过程中,扎克伯格一直为Facebook辩护,称它是一个人们可以分享各种观念的地方。当多名员工在今年10月对Facebook董事会成员彼得·泰尔(Peter Thiel)支持特朗普的立场表示反对时,扎克伯格称:“我们非常在乎多样性”,并复申该社交网络赋予所有人分享自身体会的能力。

More recently, issues with fake news on the site have mushroomed. Multiple Facebook employees were particularly disturbed last week when a fake news site called The Denver Guardian spread across the social network with negative and false messages about Mrs. Clinton, including a claim that an F.B.I. agent connected to Mrs. Clinton’s email disclosures had murdered his wife and shot himself.

更近一些时候,有关该网站出现假新闻的问题迅速扩大。多位Facebook员工在上周特别感来不安,当时一家名为丹佛卫报(The Denver Guardian)的假新闻网站在Facebook上来处传播有关克林顿的负面信息和假消息,其中包括声称一名与克林顿邮件泄露事件有关联的联邦调查局(FBI)探员杀死了自己的妻子后自杀。

On Thursday, after a companywide meeting at Facebook, many employees said they were dissatisfied with an address from Mr. Zuckerberg, who offered comments to staff that were similar to what he has said publicly.


Even in private, Mr. Zuckerberg has continued to resist the notion that Facebook can unduly affect how people think and behave. In a Facebook post circulated on Wednesday to a small group of his friends, which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Zuckerberg challenged the idea that Facebook had a direct effect on the way people voted.


In the three-paragraph post, the chief executive cited several statistics about low voter turnout during the election。


Then Mr. Zuckerberg wrote: “So rather than focusing on strengths or weaknesses in specific demographics, or other factors that may have pushed this race in one direction or another, these stats clearly suggest what many people have said all along. Both candidates were very unpopular.”




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