Tonight, “The Facebook Dilemma” Begins: A Note From FRONTLINE’s Executive Producer

October 29, 2018

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding the company's use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

I’m often asked, “How do you choose topics for FRONTLINE documentaries?”

In the case of our new, two-part documentary, The Facebook Dilemma, which begins tonight at a special time (9/8c; check local PBS listings), our investigation was sparked by the extraordinary impact Facebook has had here and abroad. We were particularly interested in a central question: what did Facebook know about the consequences of its mission to connect the world, and how did it address these issues?

As we dug deeper, producers James Jacoby and Anya Bourg found many people from across the globe — from Egypt, to Ukraine, to the Philippines —  to former company insiders, who had sounded alarms to the highest levels of the company, but who said their warnings had gone unheeded. And what started as a basic accountability question became an examination of Facebook’s core algorithm – the “secret sauce” as one insider told us – and the role that technology companies like Facebook play in our democracy.

Our team on the film also includes Dana Priest. Dana, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the The Washington Post and professor at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill School of Journalism, was drawn to this project because, in her mind, Facebook had built the largest intelligence-gathering operation in the world, and yet was operating with very little oversight.

In addition to our two-part film on what we found, which will air tonight, Oct. 29, and tomorrow, Oct. 30, we will also soon be adding new content to our Transparency Project, where you can explore our interviews in depth, and see more of the context to our reporting.

This investigation wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing team at FRONTLINE — and, of course, the support of viewers like you. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to ask tough questions, and follow the story, wherever it might lead.

Part one of The Facebook Dilemma premieres tonight at 9/8c on PBS (check your local listings) and online, and tune in for part two tomorrow at 10/9c.  

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