A recent article in the Wall Street Journal spoke of a political problem in Facebook’s operations in India that hit the house hard. They said senior Facebook executives in India lifted the company’s checks and balances to allow posts from a far-right politician who openly called for violence against Muslims.
- The WSJ article also blamed Facebook’s India policy chief Ankhi Das for the decision, who the article said said removing the posts would not be in line with Facebook’s business interests in India.
- There is a straight line between this very political decision and what the average Indian smartphone user sees and reads, who spends 4.3 hours online per day.
- It also fuels the global debate about the influence of tech giants like Facebook and Google on their users’ politics, using personal data to target content and ads that sometimes serve as feedback loops for prejudice and bias. false opinions.
- India, as the largest market for the company’s eponymous social media platform and its WhatsApp messaging utility, has a lot of exposure to the data-absorbing machines that operate behind the user-friendly facades of its apps.
- However, the novelty of the social network for a population that received its first smartphones far outweighed the privacy concerns. This compromise between convenience and privacy is the staircase, or rather the high-speed elevator, on which companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon have placed their business model.
The Beginning of Facebook
Facebook, like most social media platforms today, is a child of section 230 of the United States’ Communications Decency Act of 1996. Section 230 is a safe haven provision. which protects online platforms from legal liability for what their users download or post.
- Its parallel in India is section 79 of the Information Technology Act 2000. Section 230 allowed Mark Zuckerberg to launch Facebook from his dorm at Harvard in 2003 without having to think about the legal ramifications of what users coveted him, would publish on the site.
- Combine that with some very smart thinking about how people connect with each other, along with an ecosystem that maximizes engagement in the form of innocent-looking like buttons, and you get the explosive mix that Facebook was putting in place at the end of the decade 2000 and early 2010.
- What began as a social network for students at America’s most elite universities quickly spread to more universities and businesses before opening up to everyone in 2006.
- The 2006 also saw the launch of Newsfeed, powered by an algorithm that pushed it to images and people with which the user is likely to interact more.
- While the initial damage was limited to bruised egos and mild to strong envy, it would soon escalate into intimidation and depression, culminating in the maelstrom of misinformation and biased information that would upset a presidential election.
- More on that later for now, Facebook was harnessing the growing pride around tech and Silicon Valley as young people leading democratic protests like the Arab Spring of 2011 used social media platforms to great effect, baffling unsuccessful dictatorships. had not yet discovered their effectiveness. of the meme as a political weapon.
The money is coming
However, as politics increased and images of cats and cakes from friends and family were lost in opinions and articles on “You would not guess what happened next,” young people began to move.
- Facebook did not have a Revolutionary new millennium product to stem the tide – but what it lacked in innovation it made up for.
- Acquired Instagram in 2012 for $ 1 billion, extending its reign as the king of social media to this day and into the foreseeable future Then in 2014, it acquired WhatsApp for $ 19 billion, even though its own Messenger service had a strong position in the growing private messaging space.
- Facebook also recently invested $ 5.7 billion to buy a 10% stake in Jio from Reliance, which fits the dominant buying model. Facebook’s money maker is its advertising service.
- A wealth of likes and dislikes is at your fingertips. What people have expressed publicly on their platforms, as well as an equally vast amount of information, such as location, that users consider private.
- With this, Facebook has the means to allow advertisers to target people with a precision that Google cannot match. So it’s no wonder that Google and Facebook together control about three-quarters of the global digital advertising market, worth more than $ 350 billion in 2020.
It was on this mountain of data and precision targeting capabilities that he built his empire that Facebook’s downward slope also began. In the early years, third-party developers creating apps like games and quizzes for Facebook were allowed to extract data on who was using the app and, blatantly, their friends.
- A large mine of this data has been entrusted to Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm.
- In 2018, a whistleblower from the company revealed that the data had been used to create the personality profiles of millions of Americans and that those identified as susceptible were being targeted with pro-Trump material and conspiracy theories to change voting behavior.
- The accusation that Facebook’s flawed data policies could have caused one of the biggest election riots in U.S. history in 2016 immediately put the company on its feet, and has been ever since.
- It was quickly hit by more and more accusations of mismanaging data and allowing deadly misinformation to spread unopposed across its platforms.
- He realized that, unlike the ignorant digital dictators of 2011, there were many codebreakers who cracked the code by selling themselves online as nationalists and benefactors using the same advertising mechanism that sells shoes and vacations.
- The mass killings of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, sparked by community Facebook posts, and the lynching of Muslims in India based on WhatsApp messages confirmed the account.
- However, the biggest penalty Facebook has incurred for mishandling user data is the “paltry” amount of $ 5 billion from the US Federal Trade Commission. In fact, after the fine was announced, Facebook’s market value increased by more than $ 10 billion.
The responsibility ends with Zuck
In the middle of it all is Mr. Zuckerberg, When Facebook went public in 2012, it held a majority stake. That means it’s your writing that is the law on Facebook. And your mistakes are Facebook mistakes.
- It is logged in emails that minimize the potential impact of Facebook’s data privacy practices on users. Chris Hughes, Facebook co-founder and friend from Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm, wrote in the New York Times that Zuckerberg initially frequently used the term “domination” to describe his ambitions, which seem to be the position Facebook took.
- However, during his 17 years at the helm, he also led the company from the defining history of this century’s tech entrepreneurship to an uplifting tale of unbridled Silicon Valley hedonism.