A thinly veiled reference to the rough-and-tumble workplace culture Facebook (FB) has worked so hard to change, COO Sheryl Sandberg says “I get too damn angry.”
Behind the scenes at Facebook, there is a concerted effort to improve the image of the company. The conversations are both public and closed, often in private, to further quell mounting criticisms that Facebook is an inherently flawed platform where people feel they must sacrifice their personal privacy to remain on it.
The push starts in the upper levels of the company, where it’s not uncommon for high-level executives to schmooze with staff members in Starbucks, in order to raise awareness of the risks of privacy breaches and snooping within the company.
The company creates reports for its staff about the threat posed by outsiders obtaining their emails, obtaining passwords or other sensitive information.
Meanwhile, the management system at Facebook – an automated system that delivers reports on projects’ progress and metrics – has been overhauled, so that employees know a more sophisticated overview of projects’ health.
Facebook is also promoting digital literacy courses and other education to encourage employees to be more active on the social media network, something the company has been criticized for not doing.
These days, even Vice President Joe Biden is being criticized for promoting a Facebook profile.
The modern video series ‘GIGGS’ is the face of the company’s effort to showcase its efforts to improve its image. The viral series is written and produced by Facebook’s AI research group, Facebook AI Research, as part of a collaboration with YouTube.
According to Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox, “In the past, Facebook’s mistakes were often seen as Internet-centric. Now the company’s problems are being repeated in traditional media.”
In fact, according to Cox, his team had been working with companies to develop digital literacy education and open platform standards.
“We were trying to solve the problem in Facebook, but here they are asking us to solve the problem in a non-internet sense. So the question is, how do we take what we learned at Facebook and apply it to some other world problem and in a different world context. And I do think we’ve been very successful. But that process is just getting underway.
Cox added, “I don’t know that we have any magical thing that we can give to them that they haven’t already found and they wouldn’t have figured out on their own.”
The social media giant also recognizes its dilemma when it comes to internet access for its fellow Americans. The company has made clear it wants to take a leadership role in facilitating internet access for the poor. The problem is that the US is moving beyond its so-called “digital divide” toward a policy of open internet access.
Cox asserted that while Facebook wants to support access to the internet, “It’s a recognition that our job over the next decade is to build a tech company that helps build the infrastructure,” thereby improving internet access nationwide.
As its most vocal champions, Sandberg and Cox have been singled out by opponents for the company’s reported mishandling of user data – the exposure of which has led to the departure of many Facebook executives.
The company seems to be “chasing” the best — and often the brightest — talents of the valley. In a broad risk-mitigation strategy, Facebook is relying on a workforce of employees, 70% of whom are immigrants.