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“Facebook Papers”. Facebook algorithms contributed to “social civil war” in Polish politics – “Washington Post” reports

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“Most political parties in Poland complain about Facebook’s algorithms and unclear rules about which posts appear on user boards and which disappear in the air,” the Washington Post writes on Wednesday. The daily notes that the only group that does not raise any objections in this regard is the “far-right” Confederation.

“It’s an algorithm of hate,” says Tomasz Grabarczyk, who heads the Confederation team for social media, to the Washington-based daily. As the Washington Post notes, the party’s posts are “generally fine” despite promoting anti-immigrant and anti-vaccine content, for example. “I think we are good at conveying emotions,” says Grabarczyk.

As evidenced by internal Facebook documents disclosed by former manager of Frances Haugen, for a long time there have been voices that Facebook can contribute to the polarization of societies by promoting more radical political ideas and groups.

READ ALSO: Facebook Papers: Algorithms were supposed to promote some of the worst content

According to the Washington Post, one of the disclosed documents, dated April 2019, included opinions of European politicians who argued that Facebook’s new algorithm – which Mark Zuckerberg said was supposed to promote more “valuable” interactions and content – actually changed policy “for worse”.

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Internet “civil war” in Polish politics

In the report, the Facebook team emphasized the fears of Polish politicians who argued that there was a kind of “civil war” between political circles on the Polish Internet. These concerns have prompted regulatory and regulatory bodies across the continent to take a look at the problem, the journal writes. There have been proposals from the European Parliament to enforce greater transparency from the technology giants in the Silicon Valley.

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Poland, “led since 2015 by the populist Law and Justice party, is deeply divided into staunch supporters of the government and equally committed critics,” writes “WP”. He emphasizes that the main lines of the dispute over the Vistula River are abortion, LGBT rights and the issue of the superiority of EU law over national law. In a report quoted by the Washington Post, it was written that the two main parties on the Polish political scene – PiS and Civic Platform – accused social media of deepening divisions in the country.

As stated in the report cited, major political parties in European countries have complained that the social media system encourages them to “engage in attack-based politics.” “They see a clear link between this fact and the enormous influence of radical parties on the platform,” the document noted.

Facebook is headquartered in California, United States Reuters

“Facebook is thirsty for blood”

“Facebook is thirsty for blood,” Anna Sikora, who is in charge of social media for the party Together, told the Washington Post. “When we quote a stupid statement by our political opponent, our post has a greater reach,” she said. “If [wpis – przyp. red.] it has no blood in it, it will only reach our ‘social bubble’. Even the majority of our voters will not see him “- added Sikora.

“WP” points out that so far no complaints about Facebook’s algorithm have been reported by Confederation. According to the report, the party, which is followed by over 660,000 users on Facebook, is the most popular on the Polish Internet, although it has only 11 seats in the 560-person parliament. Tomasz Grabarczyk of the Confederation told a Washington-based daily that the group was hovering on the verge of what Facebook moderators could describe as hate speech.

“We are working on identifying and removing content that breaks our rules and blocking organizations that constantly violate our standards,” argued Facebook spokeswoman Dani Lever, quoted by the Washington Post. She stressed that the platform “has in the past removed profiles linked to various political parties and social movements for violating our principles, including [dotyczące – przyp. red.] people associated with the Confederation. “The daily reminds that Facebook blocked, among others, the social profile of Janusz Korwin-Mikke.

Janusz Korwin-Mikke TVN24

“It was like a war”

The Washington Post also quotes Paweł Rybicki, who worked on the campaign of President Andrzej Duda in 2015. “We made full use of social media,” Rybicki said. Duda then defeated Bronisław Komorowski in the second round, gaining 51.55 percent of the vote.

“It was like a war, and social media was a new weapon for Polish political parties,” recalled Rybicki, who met with the Facebook team when he was in Warsaw. However, he said he had mostly voiced concerns about moderation.

Andrzej Duda in 2015 praszkiewicz / Shutterstock.com

A consultant for the Civic Platform social media team, who spoke to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity, described the presidential election period as “wild west” with apparently little moderation on Facebook content. He said that he, and many others around him, had noticed the change that was about to take place in 2018. This change was to make it easier for more extreme content to break through on this social network.

According to an internal Facebook report, the social media management team of a Polish political party (whose name was not given) described the change as “moving from roughly equal distribution of negative and positive news to 80 percent of negative news.” The Civic Platform’s social media team has not confirmed “WP” whether the content of the Facebook report reflects the opinions of someone from the party. PiS politicians refused to provide information on this matter.

Facebook’s internal documents show that content posted by extreme-minded parties elicited greater emotional responses on Facebook. When asked about this, one of the interviewees from the company’s structures stated that he did not think that Facebook should “directly evaluate political parties”. “But I think we should be questioning what types of messages our algorithms amplify,” he added.

FacebookJirapong Manustrong / Shutterstock.com

“Many areas of our political debate seem to be spoiled by divisions,” said Damian Collins, head of the UK parliamentary committee tasked with developing online safety regulations. “If this split is driven by social media platforms, this is something I think we have a right to know because it is a direct attack on our democracy.”

“I would say 70 percent of it is due to Facebook”

Facebook’s headquarters in the United StatesReuters

As the American newspaper points out, one of the analyzes of the posts of Polish parties posted on Facebook in one week of last year showed that the 14 most popular ones came from the Confederation.

Confederation was helped by a mobilized and much younger support base on the web than most other parties, thus giving it an advantage on social media. This also translated into the Confederation’s result in the parliamentary elections. “We did everything on the Internet, everything” – answered Tomasz Grabarczyk from the Confederation, when asked about it. “I would say it’s 70 percent due to Facebook,” he added.

Main photo source: Jirapong Manustrong / Shutterstock.com



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