Facebook is riding high on a wave of the pandemic, having seen record usage numbers as people throughout the world suffer lockdowns and rely more than ever on social networks.
In a year when a lot of small businesses are shutting down or laying off employees – Facebook hired 20,000 more people to its workforce, an end-of-the-year meeting has heard, according to audio recordings BuzzFeed says it has had access to.
As for the future, “we are making it” – that is what was said during the meeting chaired by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, where Facebook execs summed up 2020 as basically a good year for the tech giant, despite coming under pressure for political and social issues and despite antitrust probes and lawsuits.
What Facebook is “making” here in terms of shaping the future are ways of keeping users on the platform, while, critics fear, also dumbing them down, via a tool that would “read” articles instead of people, and then explain to them what those articles meant to say. If that wasn’t enough, the behemoth is also not abandoning plans to develop neural sensors capable of “detecting people’s thoughts.”
Naturally, Zuckerberg would say, and perhaps even mean it, that these “advancements” will make the world a better place, comparing the speed at which Facebook is proceeding with these advancements to what’s for many the troublesome speed of the development of coronavirus vaccines.
Referring to machine learning as artificial intelligence, the article says Facebook execs have reiterated their commitment to reliance on this tech – that would “essentially train itself” (otherwise, the point of machine learning) – in order to fight “hate speech and misinformation.”
But if there’s little news there, the announcement of a tool dubbed TL;DR (internet slang for, “too long, didn’t read”) is more interesting. Its goal will be to discourage Facebook users from reading articles themselves and forming their own opinions, instead letting the giant summarize it for them – and keep them on the platform. Publishers, who are already at odds with Facebook and Google for taking their audiences and ad dollars, will certainly have something to say about this.
Otherwise, Facebook reportedly also has mind-reading neural sensors “plugged” into people’s brains in the works, as well as a universal translator, à la Star Trek.