University of Oregon professor Nicole Dahmen issued a broad warning for Facebook users this week, calling out everything from the site’s “manipulation” of news to the social media giant’s use of personal data.
Dahmen, a media studies professor specializing in the moral responsibilities of digital communicators, criticized Facebook for offering a one-sided selection of news stories tailored to reinforce each user’s political views. She also warned users about Facebook’s efforts to gather more private data, noting the site’s recent inclusion of an emoji menu was designed to encourage people to share even more about themselves.
“All of the users of Facebook need to realize that any piece of information that we give to Facebook — whether it’s a like or a dislike or a comment or share — all of that data is being tracked (to feed) the Facebook algorithm,” Dahmen said. “Facebook absolutely has the legal right to do what it wants… The argument I make is they have the ethical responsibility to facilitate the free flow of information and ideas… They have a responsibility to make democracy stronger by giving us factual, nonmanipulated news.”
The professor’s comments may not be news to anyone who closely follows Facebook’s privacy issues, but the fact that an academic and an expert decided to weigh in so forcefully against the site is noteworthy.