Facebook: one of the company's campus posters
Facebook: one of the company's campus posters
A view from Steve Hatch

Facebook: 'We're not perfect, but deserve credit for facing up to our problems'

Facebook's Steve Hatch says the Campaign Annual should have given more credit to the social media company for addressing the problems it faces and making progress in many areas.

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In 2016, Facebook made significant strides towards its ambition to help give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

More people than ever used our platforms and the services we built helped people to express themselves, keep each other safe and enabled business to grow.

This year saw the release of pioneering creative formats like 360-degree photos and video, and new products like Instagram Stories and Messenger games. Facebook Live brought the power of live broadcast to everyone in our community.

Our investments in connectivity are helping to bring the internet to the billions of people not currently online. This year, we took a major step with the first successful test flight of Aquila, our unmanned connectivity aircraft, designed and built in Somerset.

More people than ever used our platforms and the services we built helped people to express themselves, keep each other safe and enabled business to grow.

Our groundbreaking tools enabled people around the world to stay safe in times of great difficulty and crisis.

Our partnership with Samaritans UK helped identify the symptoms of, and prevent, suicides. We built tools to help police find missing children and for nonprofits to raise money.

Just last week, we launched our new Parents’ Portal in over 55 languages to help adults across the world keep their children safe online.

Safety Check has continued to enable anyone to let their friends know they’re safe, or to offer assistance to anyone who needs it in times of disaster.

Our tools helped millions of businesses to grow across the world. In the UK, we hosted sessions with thousands of SMEs through our "Boost Your Business" events, provided continuous online education and developed our "She Means Business" initiative to help female entrepreneurs take the first steps towards starting their own company.

Our tools and platforms were the backbone of our partners’ growth. And in the last quarter we launched Workplace from Facebook, our tool that helps businesses effectively connect and collaborate, built by engineering talent in London.

Our work has had significant impact. The tools we built have driven greater productivity and boosted exports, growth and jobs in the UK and across the world. 

None of this important progress and hard work featured in last week’s Campaign Annual, which declined to award a Medium of the Year, citing instead a series of challenges Facebook faced in 2016 regarding fake news, metrics and censorship.

In each of these situations, we were honest about the problem we faced, reached out to our community to identify solutions, and moved quickly to address the problems by creating new products, investments or partnerships – in some cases all three. 

Just last week, we announced new tools to stop the spread of fake news on Facebook. We're making it easier to report any hoaxes and are engaging independent fact-checkers. We can and will do more in this area as we learn.

Having access to reliable metrics is important to the millions of partners who use our services to grow their businesses.

That's why we took action to address this issue, worked with more third-party global industry leaders to verify our data, created a new channel to update our partners on metrics, formed a Measurement Council with our partners and are consistently and proactively updating our partners on our progress.

We know we are not perfect. When we have made mistakes, we’ve acknowledged them.

The original removal of the Terror of War photo was one such mistake. While this was driven by our responsibility to make sure Facebook remains a safe place with no child nudity, in this instance we recognise we made an error by removing an historic photo.

We apologised, corrected our decision quickly and have been engaging the news industry on how we can improve.

We might face criticism for not moving fast or far enough, but we believe we’ve acted thoughtfully and responsibly to craft responses that make sense considering the complexity of the issues and the scale of our global community.

I am proud of what we achieved in 2016. I am proud to work for a company that is so committed to playing a positive role in the world.

In 2017 we will continue to focus on our mission, and look to create value and economic impact for all of the people and organisations that use our platforms in the UK and across the world.

Steve Hatch is the regional director, Northern Europe at Facebook.