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Facebook is paying a newspaper to write nice things about it
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Facebook is paying a newspaper to write nice things about it

Facebook's public relations problems have reached a point where the social network is paying a traditional newspaper to puff it up with articles designed to praise the social network and reassure users about its privacy, security and usefulness.

The newspaper in question is a major UK broadsheet, The Telegraph, which partnered with Facebook to publish a series of stories with pro-Facebook angles. 

The series, called "Being human in the Information Age," has such Facebook-friendly takes such as "Why Facebook’s mission is to bring the world closer together" and more political slants like "How crypto-anarchism redefines the fight for freedom in the 21st century".

The gist is, of course, to trust Facebook with ushering this world of closeness and communication. And of course you can trust Facebook with your data. 

Some of the content looks especially bad in the light of recent events. The Telegraph ran a feature titled "What action is Facebook taking to tackle terrorist content?", lauding how effectively Facebook works to "ensure terrorist content is identified and removed as swiftly as possible," two days before a gunman opened fire at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 people and livestreaming the entire attack on Facebook. The killing video continued to spread on Facebook and Instagram well after the livestream.

In all fairness, the articles in this series are all marked "Brought to you by Facebook" at the beginning, but, if information in the Facebook age has taught us anything, it's that many people don't read so carefully, even if it can seem obvious to the media-savvy among us.

Sponsored content by Facebook may seem cringeworthy or risible, but it is distinct from an advertorial trying to sell you a new laptop or holiday or whatever. Facebook isn't just another product, it's a force that influences our social and political environments to a worrying degree and readers should be aware that the social network is trying to rebuild trust after a series of scandals and reports on its shady dealings have driven its reputation into the dirt.

The partnership with The Telegraph in particular may have to do with the 18 month long investigation into Facebook by the UK Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS), which published a report on February 18 calling the social network 'digital gangsters' for their role in enabling fake news.

As Facebook continues its charm offensive to win the popular support, it's worth bearing in mind a few of today's not-paid-for-by-Facebook  headlines. For example, that over 540 million Facebook user records were leaked by third parties, that Facebook has come under fire from the UN for not doing enough to curb its role in facilitating genocide in Myanmar, and will be grilled next week by the House Judiciary Committee over white nationalism and hate speech on the platform.

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