New Documentary ‘The Facebook Dilemma’ Explores Facebook’s Impact on Privacy and Democracy
“The Facebook Dilemma,” a new two-night documentary from Frontline, investigates the powerful social media platform’s impact on privacy and democracy in the U.S. and around the world.
Facebook has been a prime force behind social media’s integration in our daily lives for better or worse, but it increasingly stirs up ethical questions in our vigilant and divisive times.
Early previews of the new documentary suggested that it addressed issues such as CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s near-total control of the company, data collection practices, ad targeting, the Arab Spring, the political weaponization of the platform and how Facebook embedded its staff with political campaign teams.
Tellingly, the series is airing just one week ahead of the midterm elections in the U.S. as well.
Eight former Facebook senior employees, five current representatives and a handful of experts who’ve chronicled the company’s rise are expected to be featured in the documentary.
Recent developments have revealed that the number of users affected by Facebook’s data privacy scandal is now at 89 million and growing. Personal information, from “private” messages to movements around the rest of the internet, was mined by marketing firms but also by political consultant and strategies firms. The data they gathered provided invaluable insight into Americans’ behavioral patterns.
Most prominently, it has been alleged that this influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Commentators speculate that the issue with Facebook is that it originally started out as a simple social networking site, but grew beyond its means as a prime source of news for its users — which numbers 2.2 billion, monthly. The site essentially takes almost no responsibility for what it spews into the world.
Nonetheless, there is also plenty to “like” about Facebook too: in 2011, the website gave Egypt’s voiceless a platform — as recalled by Wael Ghonim in the new documentary. The Egyptian Google marketing executive helped spark the Arab Spring by encouraging protesters to gather in Tahrir Square. Citizens united almost overnight to topple President Mubarak’s 30-year regime.
“The Facebook Dilemma” is directed by James Jacoby, a producer for Frontline where he is a founding member of the Enterprise Journalism Group. Previously, he worked for the CBS News program, “60 Minutes”. His investigations have revealed wrongdoing by major banks, credit reporting agencies, disability lawyers and arson investigators. James has also worked for “Dan Rather Reports”, Current TV and The Nation.
The first part of the documentary aired on PBS Monday Oct. 29 at 9/8c; the second will air on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 10/9c. You can also stream it online here from PBS.