Clamping Down on ‘Spiritual Opium’

Which he did not (although he did not embarrass himself either). What Clegg claimed in his post, “What The Wall Street Journal Got Wrong,” was hard to argue with: that Facebook’s challenges are complex and that the people at Facebook working on them are trying really hard, so give them a friggin’ break. Who can argue with that? No one, since no one is asserting that Facebook is Thanos.

Still, he persisted: “These stories have contained deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees. At the heart of this series is an allegation that is just plain false: that Facebook conducts research and then systematically and willfully ignores it if the findings are inconvenient for the company.”

Eh, no, they didn’t. The Journal pieces note that these issues are indeed complex and that there has been disagreement internally about how to fix them. The articles say that Facebook’s chief, Mark Zuckerberg, gets final say and that he has made some bad calls.

Clegg also rolls out the “cherry-picking” accusation about “selective quotes,” asserting that the Journal reports present “complex and nuanced issues as if there is only ever one right answer.” Again, anyone who read them can see that they carry a consistent message that social media involves thorny issues that present vexing challenges. No one says this is easy stuff.

Irony alert: Clegg then proceeds to cherry-pick a study that is favorable to Facebook, while also saying the jury is still out on whether social media is to blame for, say, a decline in general social well-being. Fine, it’s early to make definitive conclusions, but it is abundantly clear that tech overall has been working the last nerve of a very delicate society.

These are vintage P.R. tactics, putting out there the time-will-tell narrative and minimizing impact. Except that few are saying Facebook created the Jan. 6 attack, for example; many are saying social media gave malevolent players like Donald Trump and his ilk all kinds of powerful tools and then let them run wild. Asking Facebook to please stop that is really a low bar — even if it’s complicated.

Since Clegg got here late in the game, I get that he might feel beleaguered. But he is also well paid and dialing up the faux indignation is, um, complex.


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