Facebook is under fire from all directions. Former employees are venting. The press is screaming. The federal government seeks to break the company’s monopolistic hold. And we the people just want to scroll—something that was denied to billions of addicted users of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp for more than seven hours on Monday.
In the center of the maelstrom is Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, who appeared on “60 Minutes” this past Sunday. Here’s a small part of what she had to say:
Haugen said Instagram harms teenage girls. Haugen added that Facebook prioritizes profits over its users, and that leads it to make decisions to spread the most polarizing content.
Haugen did not say that Facebook is not the producer of dangerous content, but rather the amplifier of it. The journalist interviewing her did not mention this fact or dare to suggest that Facebook, while problematic, is a fractured digital mirror on a world that’s lost sense of what’s real, what’s true, and what to do next. There was also no discussion of the role that Hollywood films, violent video games, sexists portrayals in ads, reality TV, talk radio, or free (ad-supported) porn on the Internet plays in the daily corruption of so-called family values. The bottom line is the producers of the harmful content are not part of the story, and that’s a major problem.
I do not mean to diminish the seriousness of the Facebook problem. I do mean to look critically at our unregulated media machines that use whatever salacious info bits they can scrounge up to present their side of the story, all whilst pretending that they’re performing some type of pious act. Like Facebook, “60 Minutes” cares more about making money than exploring the societal ills that Facebook reflects and magnifies.
I also mean to ask hard questions that mainstream reporters can’t or won’t. Like this one: Why do millions of pre-teen and teen girls and boys have smartphones and why are they allowed, even encouraged, to spend all day staring into screens?
How Are Advertisers Reacting to the Latest Round of Facebook Shaming?
Facebook serves 10 million-plus brands that spent almost $85 billion last year on its platforms.
On Monday, Facebook’s note to ad agencies, obtained by Ad Age, offered a rebuttal to the “60 Minutes” report. “We do internal research to ask hard questions and find out how we can best improve the experience for people on our platform,” the note said. “We have a strong track record of using our research — as well as external research and close collaboration with experts and organizations — to inform changes to our apps and improve our products and policies.”
My question is why assume that advertisers are upset? Advertisers are the content producers who use Facebook’s pipes to sell. What they’re upset about, if they’re upset about anything, is the takedown of the network of sites on Monday that lasted seven-plus hours.
It’s very simple. Advertisers large and small can’t quit Facebook. They’re addicted to it. The relative ease of creating FB ads and the ability to microtarget (esp. by geography) have made the primary place they start campaigns. No alternative has been as cost-effective or easy.
— Dan Goldgeier (@DanGoldgeier) October 4, 2021
Zuck’s Droppin’ Digits, Not Science
Speaking of lost revenue, Facebook’s stock plummeted 4.9% on Monday.
Zuck’s personal wealth fell by more than $6 billion in just a few hours, adding to a drop of about 15% since mid-September.
He’s still worth$121.6 billion, but the losses drop him below Bill Gates to No. 5 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Kara Swisher’s Hot Take
On PBS, tech’s top reporter, Kara Swisher, says Zuck is a “nice boy from Chappaqua” and that she likes him.
She also says he’s like a world leader with no experience, is bad at his job, lives in a bubble, and that Facebook can’t be fixed, therefore it ought to be shut down.
Biden’s Monopoly Busters Are on the Job
Also on Monday, Facebook filed its response to the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit against the company. In August, the FTC refiled its case that claimed Facebook acts as a monopoly in private social media.
Facebook argued that FTC chair Lina Khan should recuse herself from the case because of her past advocacy against the social network. Facebook also claimed that the FTC inadequately defined the competitive landscape for social media.