Facebook Slams Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’ as ‘Distorted’ and Sensationalist

Facebook has a bone — actually, several bones — to pick with “The Social Dilemma,” the recently released documentary on Netflix that sounds the alarm about the negative effects of the social media industry’s business practices.

The social-media giant released a seven-point rebuttal Friday to the Netflix film, from director Jeff Orlowski, which debuted Sept. 9.

“We should have conversations about the impact of social media on our lives. But ‘The Social Dilemma’ buries the substance in sensationalism,” Facebook said in the document posted Friday. “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 93-minute documentary film features interviews with former execs from Facebook, Twitter, Google and other companies. “The Social Dilemma” explores issues including tech addiction, the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories, and election manipulation as well as the algorithms social media and tech companies use to suggest content and target ads. The movie at various points shows a fictitious family played by actors to illustrate the negative effects of social media addiction.

“This potent documentary by Jeff Orlowski lends a podium to various experts who are certain the pervasive influence of under-regulated social media is destroying civilization from within,” Variety critic Dennis Harvey wrote in his review.

Facebook complained that 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.” In addition, the company said, “The Social Dilemma” does not “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.”

Regarding the film’s discussion of Facebook’s “mad” algorithm, the company also pointedly noted that Netflix itself uses an algorithm “to determine who it thinks should watch ‘The Social Dilemma’ film, and then recommends it to them. This happens with every piece of content that appears on the service.”

Netflix reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Among the points raised in “The Social Dilemma” that Facebook challenged:

  • The company claims its News Feed product teams are not incentivized to build features that increase time spent on Facebook products.
  • On election interference, Facebook said that it has “acknowledged that we made mistakes in 2016. Yet the film leaves out what we have done since 2016 to build strong defenses to stop people
    from using Facebook to interfere in elections.”
  • Facebook says the “idea that we allow misinformation to fester on our platform, or that
    we somehow benefit from this content, is wrong.” The company claims it has a global network of more than 70 factchecking partners.

“The Social Dilemma,” currently streaming on Netflix, has its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January 2020. The film is an Exposure Labs production in association with Argent Pictures.

Pictured above: Skyler Gisondo as “Ben” in Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma”

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