Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

Jeff Horwitz on Meta’s “Broken Code”

Air Dates: November 20-26, 2023 

Not so long ago, Facebook was the unrivaled social media platform, reaching billions of users on a regular basis and selling a vision of itself as a new public square. Jeff Horwitz broke the original story of the way Facebook executives prioritized engagement on its platform over protecting things like American democracy.  

Horwitz is a technology reporter for The Wall Street Journal. His work on “The Facebook Files” won the George Polk Award for Business Reporting and the Gerald Loeb Award for Beat Reporting. He was previously an investigative reporter for the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. His new book, titled “Broken Code,” dives into how Facebook chose to prioritize growth and engagement over everything else.  

On this episode of “Story in the Public Square,” Horwitz discusses Facebook’s evolution from its launch in 2004 to its role hosting misinformation during the 2016 presidential election. He discusses a lawsuit filed in October of this year in which 41 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allege that Facebook and Instagram have features purposely designed to be harmful for teens and young adults. The states’ view Facebook’s parent company, Meta, as a platform designed to keep them on the platform. Horwitz says, “the teenage and adult brains, are very prone to shocking content to stuff that plays on insecurities and fears,” Horwitz said. “The states allege Meta built a extremely sophisticated system that would effectively personalize the platform to play on those fears to keep its audiences’ attention to increase a sense of ‘FOMO,’ fear of missing out. 

“Story in the Public Square” broadcasts each week on public television stations across the United States. A full listing of the national television distribution is available at this link. In Rhode Island and southeastern New England, the show is broadcast on Rhode Island PBS on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and is rebroadcast Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. An audio version of the program airs Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET, Sundays at 4:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m. ET on SiriusXM’s popular P.O.T.U.S. (Politics of the United States), channel 124. “Story in the Public Square” is a project of the Pell Center at Salve Regina University. The initiative aims to study, celebrate and tell stories that matter.