Facebook reports they have 2.2 billion active users on their platform daily. That’s almost 30 percent of the world’s population logging on to watch the latest viral video, post about their political views, and wish people who they haven’t seen in four years a happy birthday. Social media, with Facebook at the forefront, has undoubtedly changed the way we communicate and our ability to do it conveniently. But at what cost?
2018 was not a good year for Facebook. It seemed like every other day they were part of a new controversy, and with each one, their stock market price dropped. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest and most important scandals that Facebook was involved in during the last calendar year.
In March 2018, the United Nations cited Facebook as playing a prominent role in spreading hate speech in Myanmar, which lead to violence and possible genocide in the country. Facebook is described as the main source of social media there, and has evolved “into a beast, and not what it originally intended,” according to a U.N. Myanmar investigator.
Then came the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The firm used personality quizzes to gain access to over 87 million Facebook users’ information and proceeded to misuse that data (which Facebook so welcomely shares) in the 2016 U.S. election. This event led to investigations from the Federal Trade Commission and Congress. In the United Kingdom, Facebook was fined for their involvement with Cambridge Analytica.
In June 2018, The New York Times reported that Facebook had signed agreements with other major companies, including Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, to share their users’ private data. They made these deals to grow their reach and expand their business. Facebook responded to the article by saying these partnerships help provide the user the “Facebook experience.”
At the end of the year, another story published by The New York Times revealed that Facebook allowed companies like Netflix and Spotify to read their users’ personal messages. They also allowed Bing to look up all of their users’ friends’ names, Yahoo to view streams of friends’ posts, and gave Amazon permission to access the names and contact information of their users’ friends.
To sum up what I learned from Facebook’s year in review: businesses trying to obtain our private data is the new gold rush. Companies want it so they can find ways to sell more goods and services to the masses. Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, realized this and exploited his user base to grow his company into one of the most influential corporations in the world.
As Facebook has grown over the years, they have acquired other social media and tech companies, such as WhatsApp and Instagram. Co-founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton, decided to leave Facebook and $850 million dollars because of his disagreement on how the company should grow in the future. The founders of Instagram also decided to leave the executive team at Facebook after the string of controversies that marred the company over the year. When you’re losing high-profile employees from the companies you purchased, and they’re leaving millions of dollars on the table, something doesn’t seem right.
Even after all those controversies, Facebook was able to beat analyst revenue projections in their past earnings quarter. The social media behemoth weathered a storm that would crush most companies. Even though Facebook isn’t as popular among the younger generation as it once was, it seems like Mark Zuckerberg and team are here to stay.