Facebook’s Dark Pattern Design, Public Relations and Internal Work Culture
Facebook inc. (now Meta Platforms) has been a target of several accusations regarding privacy issues, dark pattern design, spreading of disinformation and polarizing its users. Based on several leaked documents, the company’s public relations have often contradicted with its internal discussions and research. This study examines these issues by analyzing the leaked documents and published news articles. It outlines the dark patterns that the company has applied to their platform’s functionality, and discusses how they promote toxic behavior, hate speech and disinformation to flourish on the platform. The study also discusses some of the discrepancies between Facebook inc.’s public relations and internal work culture and discussions.
Chloe Albanesius. 2014. 10 years later: Facebook’s design evolution. PCMag. Retrieved from https://au.pcmag.com/software-services/12249/10-years-later-facebooks-design-evolution
Christoph Bösch, Benjamin Erb, Frank Kargl, Henning Kopp, and Stefan Pfattheicher. 2016. Tales from the Dark Side: Privacy Dark Strategies and Privacy Dark Patterns. Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies 2016, 4: 237–254. https://doi.org/10.1515/popets-2016-0038
Bianca Bosker. 2016. The Binge Breaker. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/11/the-binge-breaker/501122/
Harry Brignull. 2018. Dark Patterns. Retrieved from https://www.darkpatterns.org/
Angshuman Choudhury. 2020. How Facebook Is Complicit in Myanmar’s Attacks on Minorities. The Diplomat. Retrieved from https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/how-facebook-is-complicit-in-myanmars-attacks-on-minorities/
Michele Corazza, Stefano Menini, Elena Cabrio, Sara Tonelli, and Serena Villata. 2020. A Multilingual Evaluation for Online Hate Speech Detection. ACM Transactions on Internet Technology 20, 2: 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1145/3377323
M. J. Crockett. 2017. Moral outrage in the digital age. Nature Human Behaviour 1, 11: 769–771. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-017-0213-3
Cameron Dell, Andrew Couts, and Shoshana Wodinsky. 2021. We’re Making the Facebook Papers Public. Here’s Why and How. Gizmodo. Retrieved from https://gizmodo.com/we-re-making-the-facebook-papers-public-here-s-why-and-1848083026
Elizabeth Dwoskin, Will Oremus, and Rachel Lerman. 2022. Facebook loses users for the first time in its history. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/02/02/facebook-earnings-meta/
Benedict Evans. 2018. The death of the newsfeed. Retrieved from https://www.ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2018/4/2/the-death-of-the-newsfeed
Max Fisher and Amanda Taub. 2018. How Everyday Social Media Users Become Real-World Extremists. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/25/world/asia/facebook-extremism.html
Brian Fogg. 1998. Persuasive technologies. ACM Communications 42, 5: 26–29.
Forbrukerrådet. 2018. Deceived by Design. Retrieved from https://fil.forbrukerradet.no/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018-06-27-deceived-by-design-final.pdf
Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg, and Jack Nicas. 2018. Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/technology/facebook-data-russia-election-racism.html
Frontline. 2018. The Facebook Dilemma: Guy Rosen. Frontline PBS. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sGvc84tNik
Colin M. Gray, Shruthi Sai Chivukula, and Ahreum Lee. 2020. What Kind of Work Do “Asshole Designers” Create? Describing Properties of Ethical Concern on Reddit. In Proceedings of the 2020 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference, 61–73. https://doi.org/10.1145/3357236.3395486
Karen Hao. 2021. Troll farms reached 140 million Americans a month on Facebook before 2020 election, internal report shows. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/09/16/1035851/facebook-troll-farms-report-us-2020-election/
Karen Hao. 2021. How Facebook got addicted to spreading misinformation. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/03/11/1020600/facebook-responsible-ai-misinformation/
Kali Hays. 2021. Tech recruiters struggled for years to get people to leave Facebook. Now they say there’s an exodus building, and the company is having more trouble recruiting, too. Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-employees-are-more-willing-to-leave-exodus-recruiters-say-2021-11?r=US&IR=T
Jeff Horwitz. 2021. Facebook Says Its Rules Apply to All. Company Documents Reveal a Secret Elite That’s Exempt. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-files-xcheck-zuckerberg-elite-rules-11631541353
Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharaman. 2020. Facebook Executives Shut Down Efforts to Make the Site Less Divisive. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-knows-it-encourages-division-top-executives-nixed-solutions-11590507499
International Court of Justice. 2021. Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v. Myanmar). Retrieved from https://www.icj-cij.org/en/case/178
Pekka Kallioniemi. 2021. The Role of Human Curation at the Age of Algorithms. Journal of Digital Media & Interaction 4, 10. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.34624/jdmi.v4i10.24529
D. Kaye. 2019. Governments and internet companies fail to meet challenges of online hate—UN Expert. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25174&LangID=E
Hagey Keach and Jeff Horwitz. 2021. Facebook Tried to Make Its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-algorithm-change-zuckerberg-11631654215
Anna Kramer. 2021. Facebook’s hiring crisis: Engineers are turning down offers, internal docs show. Protocol. Retrieved from https://www.protocol.com/workplace/facebook-docs-hiring-recruiting-crisis
Cherie Lacey and Catherine Caudwell. 2019. Cuteness as a ‘Dark Pattern’ in Home Robots. In 2019 14th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI), 374–381. https://doi.org/10.1109/HRI.2019.8673274
Chris Lewis. 2014. Irresistible Apps: Motivational Design Patterns for Apps, Games, and Web-based Communities.
Paul Lewis. 2017. “Our minds can be hijacked”: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/05/smartphone-addiction-silicon-valley-dystopia
Ryan Mac. 2021. Facebook clamps down on its internal message boards. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/13/technology/facebook-workplace-transparency-leaks.html
Eliza Mackintosh. 2021. Facebook knew it was being used to incite violence in Ethiopia. It did little to stop the spread, documents show. CNN. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/25/business/ethiopia-violence-facebook-papers-cmd-intl/index.html
Arunesh Mathur, Gunes Acar, Michael J. Friedman, Elena Lucherini, Jonathan Mayer, Marshini Chetty, and Arvind Narayanan. 2019. Dark Patterns at Scale. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction 3, CSCW: 1–32. https://doi.org/10.1145/3359183
Arunesh Mathur, Mihir Kshirsagar, and Jonathan Mayer. 2021. What Makes a Dark Pattern... Dark? In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1145/3411764.3445610
Chris Matyszczyk. 2021. Microsoft will now snitch on you at work like never before. ZDNet. Retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-will-now-snitch-on-you-at-work-like-never-before/
Poppy McPherson. 2020. Facebook rejects request to release Myanmar officials’ data for genocide case. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/myanmar-facebook/facebook-rejects-request-to-release-myanmar-officials-data-for-genocide-case-idINKCN2521TM?edition-redirect=in
Jeremy Merrill and Will Oremus. 2021. Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/10/26/facebook-angry-emoji-algorithm/
Rachel Metz. 2021. Likes, anger emojis and RSVPs: the math behind Facebook’s News Feed — and how it backfired. CNN. Retrieved from https://lite.cnn.com/en/article/h_1b486e10835763ea6744cc98953bbf74
Tom Miles. 2018. U.N. investigators cite Facebook role in Myanmar crisis. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-facebook/u-n-investigators-cite-facebook-role-in-myanmar-crisis-idUSKCN1GO2PN
Luke Munn. 2019. Alt-right pipeline: Individual journeys to extremism online. First Monday. https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v24i6.10108
Luke Munn. 2020. Angry by design: toxic communication and technical architectures. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 7, 1: 53. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-020-00550-7
Casey Newton. 2019. Bodies in Seats. The Verge. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/19/18681845/facebook-moderator-interviews-video-trauma-ptsd-cognizant-tampa
E Pacheco and N Melhuish. 2020. Online hate speech: a survey on personal experiences and exposure among adult New Zealanders. eSafety Research.
Annie Palmer. 2019. Facebook removed 3.2 billion fake accounts between April and September, more than twice as many as last year. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/13/facebook-removed-3point2-billion-fake-accounts-between-apr-and-sept.html
Billy Perrigo. 2019. Facebook Says It’s Removing More Hate Speech Than Ever Before. But There’s a Catch. Time. Retrieved from https://time.com/5739688/facebook-hate-speech-languages/
Saritha Rai. 2021. In Just 21 Days, Facebook Led New India User to Porn, Fake News. Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-23/how-facebook-s-algorithm-led-a-new-india-user-to-fake-news-violence
Tobias Rose-Stockwell. 2018. Facebook’s problems can be solved with design. Quartz. Retrieved from https://qz.com/1264547/facebooks-problems-can-be-solved-with-design/
Guy Rosen. 2021. Hate Speech Prevalence Has Dropped by Almost 50% on Facebook. Meta Blog. Retrieved from https://about.fb.com/news/2021/10/hate-speech-prevalence-dropped-facebook/
Joni Salminen, Maximilian Hopf, Shammur A. Chowdhury, Soon-gyo Jung, Hind Almerekhi, and Bernard J. Jansen. 2020. Developing an online hate classifier for multiple social media platforms. Human-centric Computing and Information Sciences 10, 1: 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13673-019-0205-6
Mike Schroepfer. 2021. Update on Our Progress on AI and Hate Speech Detection. Meta Blog. Retrieved from https://about.fb.com/news/2021/02/update-on-our-progress-on-ai-and-hate-speech-detection/
Mark Scott. 2021. Facebook did little to moderate posts in the world’s most violent countries. Politico. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/news/2021/10/25/facebook-moderate-posts-violent-countries-517050
Jeff Seetharaman, Deepa Horwitz and Justin Scheck. 2021. Facebook Says AI Will Clean Up the Platform. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-ai-enforce-rules-engineers-doubtful-artificial-intelligence-11634338184
Natasha Singer. 2018. What You Don’t Know About How Facebook Uses Your Data. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/technology/facebook-privacy-hearings.html
Ahmed Soliman, Jan Hafer, and Florian Lemmerich. 2019. A Characterization of Political Communities on Reddit. In Proceedings of the 30th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media, 259–263. https://doi.org/10.1145/3342220.3343662
US Senate. 2021. Facebook head of safety testifies during hearing on social media mental health harms. Retrieved from https://www.rev.com/transcript-editor/shared/lrm1iZmjCkFlHjY5hc4uHHS7UhFsuWmARVsOoclubobGvhtcMtgBRUAQE3twCEatZJi1r41rpzNMNWfreCOAxPw2Ibo?loadFrom=PastedDeeplink&ts=0.59
Christine Utz, Martin Degeling, Sascha Fahl, Florian Schaub, and Thorsten Holz. 2019. (Un)informed Consent. In Proceedings of the 2019 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security, 973–990. https://doi.org/10.1145/3319535.3354212
Bertie Vidgen and Leon Derczynski. 2020. Directions in abusive language training data, a systematic review: Garbage in, garbage out. PLOS ONE 15, 12: e0243300. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0243300
Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy, and Sinan Aral. 2018. The spread of true and false news online. Science 359, 6380: 1146–1151. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aap9559
Peter Wade. 2021. Facebook Bowed to Vietnam Government’s Censorship Demands: Report. Rolling stone. Retrieved from https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/facebook-vietnam-censorship-1247323/
Ari Ezra Waldman. 2020. Cognitive biases, dark patterns, and the ‘privacy paradox.’ Current Opinion in Psychology 31: 105–109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2019.08.025
Jose Zagal, Staffan Björk, and Chris Lewis. 2013. Dark patterns in the design of games. Society for the Advancement of the Science of Digital Games.
2021. Facebook says took down 1.3 billion fake accounts in Oct-Dec. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/facebook-misinformation-int-idUSKBN2BE12M
Copyright (c) 2022 Pekka Kallioniemi
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish in the JDMI agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal the right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0. This licensing allows others to share the work with no changes and acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal, but not for commercial use.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) after publication, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.
Copyrights to illustrations published in the journal remain with their current copyright holders.
It is the author's responsibility to obtain permission to quote from copyright sources.
Any fees required to obtain illustrations or to secure copyright permissions are the responsibility of authors.
All correspondence concerning contributions, books and other review material should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org