Facebook, Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) is making efforts this year prevent manipulation of its platform by nation states, but the company says that it can't guarantee that social media is not harmful to democracy.
In a new blog post entitled "Hard Questions: Social Media and Democracy," Facebook product manager Samidh Chakrabarti says Facebook is aware of the type of damage the internet can do to a healthy democracy.
Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged to "fix" Facebook in 2018 by reducing abusive, hateful and manipulative content and improving overall user experience.
Facebook and Twitter (TWTR) took a lot of heat following the 2016 election due to allegations that the Russian government and nefarious groups used social media to spread false information in an attempt to influence the outcome of the election. Facebook says Russian agents created roughly 80,000 Facebook posts viewed by 126 million people in the two years leading up to the 2016 election.
Twitter recently said it is notifying nearly 700,000 people who interacted with more than 50,000 fraudulent Twitter accounts found to be linked to the Russian government.
While Facebook has been harshly criticized by the media for its potential role in the election, Facebook investors certainly have no complaints. Facebook stock is up more than 43 percent in the past year, and its revenue, which comes almost entirely from ad sales, was up 47 percent in the most recent quarter.
Zuckerberg spooked investors this month when he said efforts to fix Facebook would include changes to its News Feed feature that would result in less content from publishers and less overall time spent on Facebook. However, GBH Insights head of technology research Daniel Ives says improving the user experience is the right move in the long-term.
"While the News Feed changes just announced could be worrisome in terms of an ad growth hiccup, we believe this overhaul was the right move for longer-term user engagement and driving 'meaningful content,' which remains the core ingredient in Facebook's recipe for success for the coming years," Ives says.
GBH has a "highly attractive" rating and $225 price target for Facebook stock.