WASHINGTON, DC – Today, The Tech Oversight Project slammed Threads – Meta’s so-called “Twitter-Killer” app – ahead of its launch tomorrow. Since Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter and the platform’s even further lurch toward establishing itself as a radical right-wing space, users have been calling out for a Twitter alternative. Given Meta’s long history of eschewing protections while connecting pedophiles, anti-vaxxers, and domestic terrorists – leading to the Insurrection on January 6th – the Tech Oversight Project assures users that this is not the Twitter-Killer you are looking for.
“People are right to be angry about Twitter’s disgusting and dangerous lurch to extreme right-wing ideology and its quickly disintegrating user experience, but putting faith in another Mark Zuckerberg-led social media platform – right after the company gutted its safety teams and welcomed back antivaxxers and election-deniers – is a recipe for disaster,” said Kyle Morse, Deputy Executive Director of the Tech Oversight Project. “Meta’s business model is predicated on generating engagement at any cost, harvesting massive troves of users’ most personal data, and getting users addicted in order to sell ad space. For those seeking an honest platform to share news and engage in public debate, Threads will never be it.”
Why Meta Cannot Be Trusted:
Gutting Meta’s Trust and Safety Teams:
- Since November 2022, Meta has fired over 21,000 employees – gutting their teams that fight disinformation, ensure election integrity, and combat hate speech.
- In Meta’s round of attrition and firings, the company killed a fact-checking tool that would let third-party fact-checkers like The Associated Press and Reuters, as well as credible experts, add comments at the top of questionable articles on Facebook as a way to verify their trustworthiness.
- In September 2022, Meta disbanded its Responsible Innovation Team, which was responsible for discovering harms and providing recommendations to the company about how to mitigate harm and unintended consequences.
Incubating Terrorists, Antivaxxers, and Sexual Predators
- In June, the Wall Street Journal exposed Instagram and parent-company Meta for helping connect a vast network of sexual predators on Instagram that were openly devoted to the commissioning and sale of child sexual abuse material.
- In November 2022, the Senate Homeland Security Committee published a report blasting social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, for prioritizing profits and user engagement at any cost as a key driver for the sharp uptick in domestic terrorism activity in digital spaces.
- According to leaked internal documents from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, Meta not only supercharged the Stop the Steal domestic terrorist movement that led to the Insurrection on January 6th but also botched the response by continuing to platform organizers and Facebook groups – even as the U.S. Capitol was being breached.
- A 2021 CNN investigation found that despite Meta’s claims that it was enforcing content moderation policies related to medical misinformation, anti-vaxxer content was still rampant on its platforms.
- In July 2022, Meta’s President of Global Public Affairs, Nick Clegg, called for the platform to begin relaxing its policies surrounding anti-vaccine content and has even welcomed anti-vaxx super spreader Robert Kennedy, Jr. back to Instagram.
- Ad Trackers estimated revenue from Chinese advertisers have access to U.S. user data and the revenue they produce for Facebook may exceed $5 billion annually, making it the second largest revenue source for Facebook after the U.S.
- The Chinese government, through state-run media entities, was a major purchaser of Facebook ads, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per quarter.
- Despite Facebook being banned to Chinese users by the CCP, Chinese media outlets have more than one billion followers on Facebook.
- Facebook set up a page for Chinese state media entity CCTV to demonstrate promotion capabilities and attract more ad spending.
- Facebook developed a censorship tool in an attempt to court Chinese engagement.
- Facebook declined to follow Twitter’s lead in banning paid advertising by state media entities in wake of Hong Kong protests.
- Facebook defended Chinese state media ads on Xinjiang as in compliance with company policies.
- A study from the Center For Countering Digital Hate found Chinese state media used Facebook to spread pro-Russian disinformation on Ukraine, including false narratives that NATO expansion is comparable to Hitler’s control of Ukraine, that the U.S. is attempting to hide biolabs in Ukraine, and that the U.S. is using neo-Nazi organizations to suppress “rivals” in Ukraine.
Harms to Children and Teens
- Based on recent reporting and unsealed court records, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was aware that Facebook and Instagram were designed to be addictive and detrimental to young people’s mental health, particularly teen girls, but lied to Congress under oath.
- In an effort to replicate the harmful TikTok platform and algorithm, Meta recalibrated its product and algorithms to emulate its platforms on TikTok and expand its base of young users despite knowing its products were already detrimental to youth mental health.
- Instagram had planned to roll out an Instagram for Kids platform that was only shelved due to outcry from parents and social media watchdog groups.
- Despite leaked internal documents laying out the problem that “thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” and adding that “teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” Meta’s senior leadership have done nothing to alter their platform or algorithm.
Data Harvesting and Surveillance Regimes
- In 2011, Facebook settled with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it allowed private user information to be made public without warning.
- In 2013, a Facebook bug exposed the email addresses and phone numbers of six million users to anyone who had some connection to the user or knew at least one piece of their contact information.
- In 2014, Facebook faced backlash for conducting a mood manipulation experiment on more than 500,000 randomly selected users.
- In 2016, Trump consultant Cambridge Analytica harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission in order to exploit huge parts of the American electorate.
- In 2018, Facebook software bugs allowed the exposure of personal information of nearly 50 million users.
- In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook $5 billion dollars over allegations that it violated a 2012 FTC order by being deceptive in how it protects consumer privacy and handles consumer data.
- In 2021, it came to light that Facebook refused to notify more than 530 million users whose personal data was stolen in a data breach sometime before August 2019.