Will Facebook survive its scandals?

Zuckerberg is getting serious about Facebook's privacy policy, or is he?
Image: Facebook

Recent news reports disclose Facebook is having difficulty in the hiring department. In the wake of numerous scandals that have been plaguing this company, former recruiters at the social media site now tell CNBC there has been a decrease in job offer acceptance rates.

While people debate what those numbers actually are, there are still plenty of other areas to look at when measuring the company’s failures—and its success.

What about Tom?

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Since its inception in 2004, Facebook seemed to wipe out its competition systematically. Early on, one of the casualties was Myspace. What used to reign as the largest social networking site in the world was “taken out” like someone who had a hit put out on them by the Mafia.

Facebook went on to merge with and acquire companies ranging from WhatsApp to Instagram to Oculus. Over the years, it’s been impossible to miss how Mark Zuckerberg has grown his Harvard campus-originated social media network into a multi-billion dollar company.

New Scandal who Dis?

In 2018, Zuckerberg finally joined the rest of us in learning that social media can have a downside. It’s not all “likes” and “shares” out there. Sometimes, hate abounds. Trouble escalated as multiple scandals broke, revealing that Zuckerberg had even more power than anybody had initially thought.

In February of 2018, special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of Russian trolls made it public knowledge that Facebook (along with Twitter and YouTube) had been instrumental in sowing the seeds of discourse among Americans by facilitating the use of fake profiles.

Even though Zuckerberg had vowed he would fix Facebook, things just went from bad to worse. First, there was Facebook’s role in the slaughtering of Muslims in Myanmar. Then, in March of 2018, the Cambridge Analytica story hit, essentially fracturing the very foundation of the company. The story erupted, shining a light on how the political data firm had misappropriated the data of millions of Americans.

Further accounts revealed the company had accessed the data of an estimated 87 million users; all of which took place before the 2016 election without anyone’s knowledge. As it turned out, it wasn’t just Cambridge Analytica that gained access to user data.

And the list goes on. There was the testimony before Congress, malware aimed at teenage girls, Facebook’s vetting process for political advertisers was called into question after a few mishaps, and we learned that data also went out to device manufacturers. More fake accounts were linked to Russians, there were arguments about political diversity, and ads that allowed employers to favor men over women.

The Hits Just Keep on Coming

By September of 2018, just before they started cracking down on trolls and banning accounts for hate speech (bye, bye, Alex Jones), Facebook’s stock plummeted.

By September, the Instagram founders and others quit. Facebook got hacked (big time), there was a lawsuit filed for inflating the time users spent watching videos, and then The New York Times broke a story about chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. Among other things, the article revealed that she had tried to keep information about Russian interference quiet. And, that wasn’t even the end of the year.

In December of 2018, Facebook’s internal communications went public during a lawsuit that involved incidences dating back to 2015. It revealed personal emails from Zuckerberg. A Facebook bug exposed close to seven million users’ photos to third-party developers. Then, The New York Times broke another story about how Facebook shared a large amount of personal user data with upwards of 150 companies after they said they had ceased access to that sort of information.

The scandals were so hard to keep up with; it’s no surprise that internal morale plummeted.

Block, Unfollow, or Unfriend?

Facebook’s troubles only continued to grow into 2019. In February, the company ran into trouble with the German government as well as with Apple. In April, news surfaced that Facebook will end up paying a high price because of data privacy practices. The scandal is estimated to cost them anywhere from $3 to $5 billion in fees, paid out to the Federal Trade Commission.

While it doesn’t compare to the company’s earnings, the multi-billion-dollar fine would set a new landmark. It will be the most significant penalty against a tech company for breaking a data-privacy agreement. It trumps the $22.5 million penalty fee paid by Google in 2012.

Trust is an important thing. No matter how big you get. Once you sully a relationship, it can be hard to go back.

Strangely enough, Facebook seems to be surviving its scandals. The first quarter of 2019 showed that Facebook had 2.38 billion monthly active users. Furthermore, employment is up. Monthly user activity is up. Daily user activity is up; even mobile user activity is up.

While there are still approximately 83 million fake profiles, Facebook views them as potential customers. Engagement is high. Information provided directly by Facebook in their reports to Wall Street tells the tale of a healthy company. While embroiled in scandal after scandal, the social media giant seems to keep rising to the top; despite its pitfalls.

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The world of social media can be tricky, and we are still navigating our way through. As issues are being exposed, there are those out there who wish to fix things and those who are hoping to take advantage of situations. Some mishaps may be unintentional, but it can still provide an opportunity for someone with mal intentions to climb through the loopholes that exist. It’s up to us to do our due diligence on every level.

So, the question remains, what is Facebook’s role in all of this? Are they the good guys or the bad guys? Will the social media network help humanity or hurt us? How do we, as humans, use this tool the company created for us in a beneficial way? How do we enlighten ourselves and protect ourselves at the same time?

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Sari Cohen is a journalist based in the Greater L.A. Area. She began her career in the entertainment industry as a stand-up comedy writer/performer and over the years has developed scripts for both the stage and screen. She currently covers music and live entertainment for AXS, reviews movies for Hollywood First Look Features and writes for InLove Magazine. She also pens funny stuff for popular sites such as Cracked and Screen Rant. You can often find her at concerts or on a red carpet somewhere, talking to someone about something. From on-the-scene reporting to exclusive interviews, she tackles every topic from music, movies and television, to fashion, lifestyle and politics. You can check out more on Twitter at @ask_sari or follow her adventures on Instagram under @thesavvyscribbler.