It used to be the poster boy of Silicon Valley and the digital revolution, but Facebook is increasingly looking like one of those laser-focused multinationals which have little concern for the consumer and eyes only for revenues, profits and spreadsheets.
A couple of days ago we wrote that Facebook was losing its appeal to the younger generations, and you can start to see why. The younger generations are more socially conscious, liberal leaning and likely to be moved to action; firms which do not support the lofty ideals and principles of these consumers will not be tolerated. Facebook is lining up lawsuits regarding user privacy and is constantly getting slogged about political interference and fake news; there is only so long the brands credibility can stand up against such claims. When will Facebook lose the consumer trust?
This weekend saw two developments make waves in the technology world. Firstly in Belgium, where Facebook has been battling the country’s privacy commission. A court ruled Facebook had broken privacy laws by tracking people on third-party sites without collecting appropriate permission of the user. Secondly, Facebook executive Rob Goldman tweeted about how Russian parties abused the advertising platform to accelerate the dissemination of fake news, which President Trump took as an admission of fault in his campaign against the media, or to be more accurate, the media which doesn’t agree with him.
While most respectable adults have switched off from the white noise which is coming from the man who’s small hand hovers over the red button, both of these examples are just adding to the growing sentiment against Facebook. With new generations being so socially conscious, or at least when it suits them, the social media giant can ill afford to act irresponsibly when accuracy and data privacy is top of people’s concerns.
Facebook might be the dominant social media platform for the moment, but Snapchat’s increased engagement, Instagram’s rising numbers and Twitter’s new found profitability indicate some users are starting to find their online fix elsewhere. Facebook’s rapid rise to the top of the world was incredible, but it should also act as a warning. The world can change very quickly, anything which rises that fast can fall equally as quickly.
The two new PR pain points found over the last couple of days are nothing new, but simply another example to put on top of the rising shit heap. The case in Belgium is remarkably similar to a ruling in Spain back in September, where authorities ruled Facebook was inappropriately collecting and using personal information on some of its Spanish users, while the use of social media platform to spread political propaganda is a story which has been festering over the last 12 months. These examples also add to Facebook’s fine from the European Commission for providing incorrect or misleading information during the WhatsApp acquisition, security concerns over at WhatsApp, admitting it was not providing advertisers with correct advertising performance metrics and backtracking on promises over how personal data would be shared with the various entities in the Facebook family.
In years gone by some of this bad news could be swept under the sofa to be cleaned up another day, but this was only the case because Facebook was in the good graces of the consumer. Recent updates to the platform have seen Facebook seemingly concentrate too much on making money. This has been to the detriment of user experience and might explain why Facebook users aged 12 -17 will actually be in the minority for the first time. If Facebook isn’t delivering the product anymore the rest of the problems will start to surface.
Brands like Facebook, Google, eBay and Amazon rose to the top because they gave the impression they cared about the consumer. These were organizations which were different to the banks or oil companies which dominated the global economy, shining with the friendly and hippy persona of Silicon Valley. But with all the lawsuits and accusations focusing on an abuse of trust from Facebook, there doesn’t seem to be much difference anymore.
Perhaps you could liken Facebook to the development of a young adult, it is only 14 years old after all. It started off with the ideals of making the world a better place, but then reality started to bite in. Bills started to line up and CEO Mark Zuckerberg realised he would have to sacrifice some of his principles to keep the money men satisfied. Facebook seems to have lost sight of why it became such a popular platform, why it mattered to the world and why people trusted it. Finger pointing at the privacy practises of Facebook can only go on for so long before credibility is irreversibly damaged.
When you are writing more bad news stories than good ones, it is never a positive sign. The bad news pile is starting to look pretty daunting.