From the idea of developing a “metaverse” where people can socialize, work, trade and play in an online universe – Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently announced his company’s new name, Meta. After a period of negative spotlight, critics continue to question Facebook’s actions while people’s demand for security continues.
Recent declarations from former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen on Capitol Hill sparked new controversies
Haugen offered insider information as a compelling witness; her declarations put Facebook in a historical crisis. She shared, “I joined Facebook because I think Facebook has the potential to bring out the best in us,” she said. “But I am here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.” She also called for governmental intervention by adding, “Almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside of Facebook. The company intentionally hides vital information from the public, from the US government and from governments around the world.” As the hearing took place one day after the outage – the spotlight was on Facebook and users all over the world have now added this information to the debate.
Senator Edward J. Markey has been working to hold Facebook accountable on privacy protections for more than a decade
He shared: “Facebook is just like Big Tobacco, pushing a product that they know is harmful to the health of young people, pushing it to them early, all so Facebook can make money.” A famous line from Sen. Markey is that, “Facebook damages our democracy,” as users use this platform to consume and share political news causing potential misinformation.
The Facebook outage on October 4th affected everyone. Many users were not able to contact their loved ones, businesses lost money, and content creators were counting the hours to get back to their work platforms. The outage due to a failure during an update to Facebook’s routers that coordinate network traffic, lasted about six hours and affected the world’s most popular social media platforms: Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook. According to BBC, more than 3.5 billion people around the world experienced the outage, while it also cost Facebook an estimated $6 billion.
Small business owner Clara Camacho who owns and runs a nail salon in Salinas, California, shared, “I lost business on Monday, I book appointments through my Facebook page, and I wasn’t able to get any new clients – and even worse, I couldn’t communicate with my morning appointments since I did not have Messenger, this means that I will have to start asking for phone numbers and get a business number because I don’t want this to happen again.” Camacho is just one of millions of businesses that were affected by the outage.
Do we rely too much on Facebook?
Facebook has been involved in serious investigations since 2011, including the Cambridge Analytica investigation in 2018 that ended with a fine by the FTC for $5 billion. Since then, politicians have been vocal about Facebook’s power over democracy, privacy and several more topics that Facebook seems to violate. The outage was not the exception to remind the people of Facebook’s dark side.
Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez says “Break them up”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez shared, “It’s almost as if Facebook’s monopolistic mission to either own, copy, or destroy any competing platform has incredibly destructive effects on free society and democracy,” pointing out that Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp as they were one of their top competitors. Due to the financial power that Facebook has, it has been able to absorb potential competitors across the globe, which AOC defines as a “catastrophic monopolistic behavior.”
As billions of people’s lives were disrupted by the recent outage, it is the perfect time to ask ourselves if the power we are giving to one company is good for society, the economy and our wellbeing.