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Broken Code: Inside Facebook and the Fight to Expose Its Toxic Secrets

Written By Michael Ferrara

Created on 2023-11-15 19:44

Published on 2023-11-22 14:36

"Broken Code: Inside Facebook and the Fight to Expose Its Toxic Secrets" by Jeff Horwitz offers a compelling examination of Facebook's internal dynamics and the beliefs of its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, which significantly influenced the platform's policies and public stance. The book reveals several critical instances where Zuckerberg's beliefs diverged from reality, particularly in relation to the prevalence and impact of misinformation on Facebook. These instances highlight the challenges faced by the social media giant in balancing user preferences, the spread of false information, and the implications for democratic processes. Here are some key examples from the book:

Arturo Bejar: A Voice of Compassion and Critique in the Realm of Facebook's Policies

As we delve deeper into the narrative of Facebook's internal dynamics and leadership decisions, it becomes essential to explore the perspective and critique offered by Arturo Bejar, a significant figure in the company's history. Bejar's journey from a compassionate innovator to a critical observer of Facebook's policies sheds light on the complexities and challenges within the tech giant. His unique standpoint offers an invaluable insight into the discrepancies between Facebook's intentions and its real-world impact, particularly under the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg. Here's an overview of Bejar's career and his evolving views on Facebook's role in society:

Impact of AI on Elections

AI, as used by platforms like Facebook, plays a critical role in content moderation. However, its effectiveness is limited, particularly in non-English languages and in countries with multiple official languages. For instance, Facebook's AI classifiers for election-related content in Hindi and Bengali were underdeveloped and outdated as of 2021, and classifiers for most other Indian languages were nonexistent. This discrepancy in AI effectiveness across languages and regions means that the platform's content moderation is less efficient outside the United States, potentially impacting the quality of information available during elections.

Big Tech's Preparation Against Misinformation

Facebook has recognized the need to address the spread of misinformation and other exploitative content. It has implemented systems to detect and flag individual pieces of harmful content, similar to its system for blocking images of child sexual abuse. Additionally, Facebook has explored ways to suppress "trash content farms," which manipulate platform mechanics to gain undue attention. There was also an effort to encourage reputable publishers who invest in producing their own content. However, Facebook's principle of "Assuming Good Intent" for users and its internal struggles have historically made it challenging to address these issues effectively. The Civic Integrity team at Facebook, initially focused on enhancing democratic participation, later shifted its focus towards understanding and mitigating platform abuses that undermine democracy, like foreign troll farms and extremist groups exploiting Facebook's recommendation systems.

Further Preparations for AI in Elections:

To better prepare for AI's role in future elections, it's crucial to enhance AI classifiers across diverse languages and regions to ensure equitable and effective content moderation. This includes developing and updating classifiers for languages spoken in countries with significant Facebook user bases. Big Tech companies should also balance growth aspirations with the ethical responsibility of preventing misinformation and harmful content. Improving the detection and suppression of exploitative content farms and extending more rigorous content quality standards are other key steps. Finally, maintaining a nonpartisan approach, especially in teams dealing with civic and political content, is essential to ensure fairness and trust in the platform's role in the democratic process.


"Broken Code: Inside Facebook and the Fight to Expose Its Toxic Secrets" paints a detailed picture of the internal and external pressures faced by one of the world's most influential social media platforms. The book not only explores the influence of Zuckerberg's beliefs and decisions but also examines the broader implications of Facebook's policies and actions on public discourse and democracy. It serves as a critical examination of the power and responsibility of tech giants in the digital age, highlighting the need for greater accountability and transparency in their operations.

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About Tech Topics

Tech Topics is a newsletter with a focus on contemporary challenges and innovations in the workplace and the broader world of technology. Produced by Boston-based Conceptual Technology (, the articles explore various aspects of professional life, including workplace dynamics, evolving technological trends, job satisfaction, diversity and discrimination issues, and cybersecurity challenges. These themes reflect a keen interest in understanding and navigating the complexities of modern work environments and the ever-changing landscape of technology.

Tech Topics offers a multi-faceted view of the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of technology, work, and life. It prompts readers to think critically about how they interact with technology, both as professionals and as individuals. The publication encourages a holistic approach to understanding these challenges, emphasizing the need for balance, inclusivity, and sustainability in our rapidly changing world. As we navigate this landscape, the insights provided by these articles can serve as valuable guides in our quest to harmonize technology with the human experience.