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Facebook scandals: data breaches, election interference, executive departures, stock prices plummeted


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2021 was supposed to be the year when Mark Zuckerberg really started to repair Facebook. This is the CEO’s annual self-improvement plan. Looking back on Facebook’s 2021, it may be safe to say that few people In terms of implementing the New Year’s plan, we have failed so much. In 2021, Facebook scandals continued, leading to unprecedented close attention and censorship from the government and the media, strong reactions from users, continuous departures of executives, and stock prices plummeting.

In 2021, the scandal exposed by Facebook has actually been brewing for a long time, and this is largely related to the foundation of the company. Facebook adopts a business model based on a large number of users and earning advertising fees. On the basis of large-scale data collection. But for this Silicon Valley social media giant, 2021 is undoubtedly an important turning point, and in the future, where Facebook will go is still unclear. So, what happened in 2021? What will change?

1. In 2021, Facebook scandals continued

1. Cambridge Analytica's data breach scandal

Considering how much pressure the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal has brought to Facebook, the incident may eventually become the most influential scandal in the history of Facebook. In 2021, this is not a new story. There is a lot of news. The media has launched an investigation on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team, which hired the British-based data analysis company. However, the sensational reports from The New York Times, The Guardian and Channel 4 let the world know how much user data Facebook shared with third-party developers (especially from 2010 to 2010). Between 2014 and afterwards, Facebook began to block their access rights), but Facebook never told its users how much their information was lost, how it was lost, and how easily outsiders can obtain this information.

2. Data sharing

In the next few months, the news media and members of Congress will learn more about how Facebook builds its own business, not through "sales data" (accusations denied by its executives), but through Collect and exchange data, and make it public. Facebook allows device makers such as BlackBerry to access data; it has partners such as Netflix, Spotify, and even the Russian search engine Yandex, who get it from Facebook when they are turned away by other companies A large amount of user information data. These revelations came from the "Wall Street Journal", the court documents of a US lawsuit accepted by the British Parliament, and the "New York Times". Among them, the "New York Times" revelations may be the most eye-catching news. Although some people believe that the latest disclosures are either exaggerated or well-known, one thing is clear: Facebook has lost the trust of the news media and the public. The big question now is whether these data sharing agreements violate the consent decree reached by Facebook and the US Federal Trade Commission in 2011, which prohibits sharing user data with any other organization or individual without notifying the user. , It may also incur huge fines.

3. Data breach

Although data sharing is a feature of Facebook’s design, information can also be beyond the control of Facebook. In October last year, the company announced that the data of as many as 30 million users had been leaked in a large-scale hacking attack. Some of them The data is as sensitive as religious beliefs or location information. Just two months later, a loophole made the photos of as many as 6.8 million users vulnerable.

2. The deadly impact of fake news around the world

We live in an era that some people call "post-truth". False information is easier to spread than ever before, while real news and independent media have been relegated to "fake media." This cannot be attributed solely to the social network, but it must have a lot of responsibility-especially Facebook, which is so large that its products have replaced the Internet in some parts of the world for most or all. In 2021, the United Nations stated that Facebook had become a "beast" in Myanmar. Facebook allowed other people in Myanmar to provide false and abominable information about the Rohingya on the platform. Ethnic conflicts among Rohingyas; on a smaller scale, Facebook was also accused of racial conflicts in Sri Lanka and Nigeria, which had a similar impact; in India, the company had to change its encrypted instant messaging service WhatsApp The way it works is related to the rumors spread on the app before and deadly violence; in the United States, the opposition to Facebook fake news incidents is mainly focused on the notorious right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, including Facebook The tech platforms inside (Facebook is following, not leading this ban), ban Jones from logging on to their platform, and after helping Jones gain huge popularity and influence.

3. The continuing consequences of Russia's election interference

Russia’s intervention in the U.S. presidential election and the Brexit referendum may have appeared very early, but in 2021, we learned more about how Russian agents use social platforms, especially Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Spread false information and spread divergent positions among American voters. For example, two reports released in December detailed the breadth of Russia’s involvement, emphasizing that technology companies are almost powerless to contain the issue. These reports also show that Instagram’s image is cleaner than that of its parent company Facebook. In terms of its influence, it is stronger than previously thought.

4. Government review and regulatory risks

Data breach scandals and Russian interference in election scandals have led lawmakers and government officials around the world to investigate, file lawsuits, hold hearings in Congress and Parliament, and review Facebook’s operations, business models, and past claims. Facebook executives had to answer hundreds of questions in person, but it’s worth noting that Zuckerberg avoided facing some of his toughest opponents: for example, the British House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee Chairman Damian Collins, Europe has enacted a comprehensive data privacy law, which has an impact on the entire technology industry, but various scandals on Facebook have helped US congressmen to increase the company’s most profitable market Conduct technical supervision discussions.

5. Facebook exposes internal management chaos

Until this year, Facebook has been considered a company with a united leadership and few executives leaving. In 2021, the situation changed. According to reports, Facebook’s two most valuable acquisitions were the founding of WhatsApp and Instagram. People leave because they have huge disagreements about the future of the platform they created, including concerns about the parent company’s continued pursuit of profitability. The privacy director of Facebook has left, and the director of communications and policy has also left. Zuckerberg, especially chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, was once an executive with many admirers, but in 2021 , Their public image is also severely damaged. Zuckerberg is the incarnation of the company he founded, but more and more people believe that he is ruthless and his desire for power is terrifying. A report in The New York Times described in detail that Facebook hired Definers, a public relations company with a Republican background, to divert criticism from the outside world and investigate the relationship between Soros and anti-social media grassroots organizations as a damage control measure. Sandberg was one of the people who led Facebook’s actions to shift public attention after Russia’s intervention in the election scandal and the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal.

6. So, what should I do now?

Perhaps most importantly, 2021 seems to be a deliberate moment for users and regulators, and Facebook’s ubiquitous and often harmful role in people’s lives and society as a whole has become more difficult to ignore. David Carroll, an associate professor at the Parsons School of Design and one of Facebook’s most outspoken critics, said: “This can only be attributed to network influence (a product has more users, making it better Economic concept), and the intention to create technological monopolies through design, on the one hand, it creates tremendous convenience and tremendous capabilities, but also concentrates power.” Carroll asked the British government to obtain voter data collected by Cambridge Analytica.

In 2021, the most important thing that Facebook lost was its credibility. Carol pointed out that in the three scandals of Russia’s election interference, the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, and the hiring of Definers, “covering the facts is worse than crime. "Facebook keeps changing its interpretation, hiding key information, and trying to downplay the damage it causes. In addition, Facebook keeps leaking user data while keeping people fully informed, which will inevitably lead to strong opposition. Facebook's handling of various scandals has not played any role: it has become rigid in response, repeating "we need to do better", and at other times it is overly defensive and even condescending in tone. .

Throughout 2021, among Facebook users, the "delete Facebook" campaign occurred frequently. In the week before Christmas, researchers published a report on Russian influence operations, and the New York Times also published After the data sharing survey, there was the latest surge. Many people, including influential journalists, declared on Twitter that they completely deleted and quit Facebook. The power of this platform lies in the number of users. If users really leave in large numbers, especially in the United States and Europe, where Facebook’s advertising revenue is the most, will be a huge hidden danger for Facebook, because Facebook’s investors are very concerned about the number of users. The company has lost a lot of users in these areas. If more users exit after the latest scandal is exposed, of course, we will know if there are more users after the company’s financial report is announced in January next year. Whether they really quit, that is, most people cannot really leave Facebook, because Facebook may be the only channel for them to contact their family, hometown, school, business, organization, and support group.

Carroll said that one potential consequence of Facebook’s strong opposition is that regulators will make user data more portable, that is, users can easily download data and transfer it to a new platform. The above is an enforceable rule that will make it easier for users to transfer all information to a new and better platform, to potential competitors on Facebook, Carol said: “It’s like making a law, you You can keep your phone number and you can change your communication service provider at any time. This will create unprecedented market competition."

In order to achieve this goal, governments need to take action. 2021 is the year that many Facebook users awakened. The same is true for governments. Limitations were unthinkable a few years ago, and in Facebook’s 2021 legend, the most important moment may be the investigation of Cambridge Analytica’s data breach scandal by British lawmakers and regulators. Facebook Net can stand up bravely.

Facebook, which has 2 billion users worldwide, is too big to fail. If users continue to stay on the platform and its sister apps, they can either ignore the scandal or make up their minds to delete and quit Facebook, but it will They lose too much, and the same is true for advertisers, and funds will continue to flow into the company's pool of funds. Since the beginning of this year, Facebook’s share price has plummeted by about one-third, and it has plummeted by about 40% compared to its peak stock price in 2021. However, this peak appeared after the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal was exposed, indicating that Facebook Net can withstand the blow of the scandal. Moreover, securities analysts basically still like Facebook and believe in its business. People's trust in Facebook may be significantly reduced, but Carol said that if there is no other choice, "We will all have to accept Facebook, even if It is a demon."

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