- Facebook released a blog post on Friday attacking the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma.”
- Facebook said the film buries nuanced discussion in “sensationalism” and uses social media platforms as a scapegoat for complex societal problems like political polarization.
- Oxford University psychologist Prof. Andrew Przybylski told Business Insider he broadly agreed with Facebook’s argument.
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Facebook is taking on a Netflix documentary about the dark side of social media, saying it buries the truth in sensationalism.
“The Social Dilemma” started streaming on Netflix on September 9, and Facebook put out a blog post on Friday addressing the film. “We should have conversations about the impact of social media on our lives. But ‘The Social Dilemma’ buries the substance in sensationalism,” Facebook writes.
“Rather than offer a nuanced look at technology, it gives a distorted view of how social media platforms work to create a convenient scapegoat for what are difficult and complex societal problems. The film’s creators do not include insights from those currently working at the companies or any experts that take a different view to the narrative put forward by the film. They also don’t acknowledge — critically or otherwise — the efforts already taken by companies to address many of the issues they raise. Instead, they rely on commentary from those who haven’t been on the inside for many years,” Facebook goes on.
Facebook breaks down the seven areas it believes the film misrepresents point-by-point: so-called social media addiction, painting users as the ultimate product, how Facebook deploys its algorithms, data collection, political polarization, election integrity, and misinformation.
It also took a swipe at the documentary for criticizing Facebook’s use of algorithms while being distributed by Netflix.
“Facebook uses algorithms to improve the experience for people using our apps — just like any dating app, Amazon, Uber, and countless other consumer-facing apps that people interact with every day. That also includes Netflix, which uses an algorithm to determine who it thinks should watch ‘The Social Dilemma’ film, and then recommends it to them,” Facebook writes.
Prof. Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist at the Oxford Internet Institute who has studied the effects of social media, told Business Insider he agreed the film was sensationalistic and said it relied on “junk science.”
“It really imagines that designers have a lot of power to control human psychology that they don’t have,” he said. Przybylski said that while he thought the film did a good job of explaining the basic economics behind social media platforms, it skirted around any hard science. The filmmakers, he said, “didn’t bother to interview scientists doing good work on health and social media.
He added that while Facebook is “obviously protecting [its] interests” with its blog post, he found its arguments broadly made sense.
Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.