- Facebook’s reputation has taken a hit following the Cambridge Analytica Scandal
- They have made attempts to get back in the good graces of the public
- Their user base has remained consistent
When the rise of social media over the last decade is examined, it is impossible to ignore the role that Facebook has played in it. Facebook, with its flagship social media platform, emerged just as the end of the Myspace era was taking place and revolutionized the way social media was used as a part of daily life and across various ages, genders and economic groups. For the first time in history. it was common and normal for people across the world to connect through a singular social media platform which was dominant at the time.
Besides just connecting, Facebook also changed the way we share and consume media, as personal information, photographs, videos, and experiences were now broadcast to friends and family as well as strangers across the globe at the click of a button. While Myspace was particularly popular among younger people, Facebook captured everyone and for the first time, it seemed as though the world was truly connected. Mark Zuckerberg has, since its inception, been the public face of the company and was lauded as the public face of both social media and internet entrepreneurship, becoming one of the youngest billionaires in the history of the world.
However, the public perception of Zuckerberg now has taken a significant shift, as he has gone from everybody’s favorite tech nerd to the subject of various “reptilian person” memes and the go-to figurehead for data misuse. It is impossible to imagine at the time that he would go from tech’s Superman to Lex Luthor, but here we are.
A Fall From Grace
While Facebook was on top of the world, there was a slow but steady shift in the narrative that surrounded both Facebook as a company and Mark Zuckerberg as a person. One of the first things that triggered this was the Oscar-winning 2010 movie ‘The Social Network’ that Chronicles the lives and the of the founders of Facebook as well as the inception of the company itself. While the film was universally praised, it did reopen the discussion around just who founded Facebook and whether it was based off a stolen idea of the Winklevoss twins. However, this did not dent the image of Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg to a significant degree but only created a discussion around it.
What led to the downfall Facebook was more about their use of privacy and their handling of user data than whether or not Facebook was an original concept or a stolen one.
Interestingly enough, the company’s handling of user data or at least Zuckerberg’s views of it are nothing new as a leaked IM message chat between him and a friend from 2004, when the founder was 19, shows him referring to users as ‘dumb fucks’ for trusting him with their emails, pictures addresses and so on when the social media network still in its inception stage.
The leak of the chats took place in 2010 and Zuckerberg confirmed its authenticity while stating that he was deeply embarrassed and regretted them. This did not stop the practices at Facebook, however, as it was essentially an open secret that the data was being mishandled and sold to the highest bidder but this was never proven and instead, was relegated to discussions on online forums and jokes been made about it.
While, for a long time, Facebook’s data handling was an online joke, what truly caused it to be taken seriously was the Cambridge Analytica issue of 2018. The Scandal was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a now-defunct British political Consulting firm, had been harvesting the personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent and using it for political advertising purposes. The harvesting of personal data was first reported in 2015 for the Guardian by Harry Davies but Facebook did not comment on the matter and it wasn’t until an ex Cambridge analytical employee Christopher Wylie broke the story when it was confirmed that Facebook had indeed been selling user data to the highest bidder.
The moment was a historical one as it brought to light just how much power individuals were giving to social media companies and various firms and just how exploited they were. The backlash towards Facebook was immediate with $100 billion being lost in their share prices in a few days as well as Mark Zuckerberg having to testify in front of US Congress.
Now, it’s no longer deniable or ignorable and it affected more than just Facebook as most of the world finally had more reason to pay attention to how their data was being used.
Just a number of weeks ago, they banned a number of controversial figures such as Alex Jones from using their platform and are also planning to launch their highly-anticipated Facebook token sometime this year. However, the former move did spark some controversy about whether Facebook as a public company was infringing on freedom of expression rights, which only further added to the narrative that they had become a global entity that was unhinged and authoritarian in its practices.
The latter also brings into question whether Facebook should be going into cryptocurrency as the entire concept of crypto was to create decentralized financial systems that would not exploit the user. When there were rumors that Facebook had acquired privacy-centric browser Brave, Brendan Eich, the founder of Brave, was quick to deny and distanced himself from such talk.
— BlockedHouse (@BlockedHouse) March 29, 2019
Can Facebook be Redeemed?
At this point, it would take more than a few bans and a coin to shake off the reputation Facebook now has as a shady corporation. But then, one has to wonder if they even need to as figures from Zeporia show that Facebook monthly active users are up 8 percent in the last quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2018. It seems that users have reverted to the old mentality in which they’re aware that they are likely been exploited by a corporation but aren’t willing to take the steps to break the Monopoly.
While many crypto users are against Facebook’s token becoming widely used, many will have no choice but to use the token as it might become the standard, especially considering that Facebook has over two billion users in its pocket.
At the same time, Facebook owns its flagship social media platform, as well as Instagram and WhatsApp, which are some of the most powerful and widely used social media platforms in existence. There isn’t much of an alternative to either of these and even if they were, it would be extremely difficult for users to make such a huge switch en masse. So far, it seems Facebook might not be hopping on the redemption train anytime soon and, more importantly, they might not need to.