In recent months, Facebook has found itself at the center of a raging controversy over Russia’s role in influencing the 2016 presidential election. And, as writer Keith Collins pointed out at Quartz this week, the company has deflected the criticism in a curious way.
Several executives at Facebook have downplayed the issue by saying that the platform itself isn’t at fault, but that some people choose to use it in the wrong way. As Collins wrote, this argument is similar to one gun advocates have made before—it isn’t the firearm that’s the problem, but the people who use them. Indeed, executives at Facebook continue to issue confusing statements that both take responsibility for Russian-bought propaganda on the site, while also defending the platform.
“We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way—and that is on us,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote a post. “And we did not find it ourselves—and that is also on us.”
For his part, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seemed to blame the site’s use of artificial intelligence, while reiterating his move away from relying on human moderators.
“Most ads are bought programmatically through our apps and website without the advertiser ever speaking to anyone at Facebook. That’s what happened here,” he said. “But even without our employees involved in the sales, we can do better.”
One thing is certain: Facebook has a long way to go before it understands its own role in protecting users from bad info online.