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Why is Facebook(Meta) everybody’s whipping boy?

Photo by Dima Solomin on Unsplash

A decade ago, in the middle of a working day I received a call from a colleague from China. He told me that I had wrongfully tagged him on one of my group snaps on Facebook(Meta). I was concerned as I had not tagged him in any photos until I discovered that it was Facebook(Meta) that had auto-tagged him. I removed the tag of course but shortly afterwards I went on to observe the surge of such tagging globally.

Common pictures were tagged and shared, commented and liked multiple times, the stage was being set back then for a world Gen Z would soon walk into. To a large extent, we let it go on — in the name of social networking, and the unseen idea of a global village that would unite us all one day in some untold rhapsody !!

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

The Cambridge Analytics fiasco in 2016 was the beginning of sorrows for Meta. The profiles of certain types of voters were extracted and then used as fodder for targeted ads prior to the 2016 US general election. Meta took a slap on its face for this, the word regulation started appearing in the corridors of Power in Washington DC for an industry that had grown too big.

Surprisingly a large portion of netizens had, until then, no issues sharing their personal details/snaps of their travels or their favorite Michelin restaurants online for everyone to view. The moment it came to light that they could be profiled and targeted using this data, the issue of privacy cropped up and the exodus from Meta began.

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Then came cyberbullying. A report in the UK as early as 2017 called out both Instagram and Facebook(Meta) as platforms of choice for cyberbullies. Obviously ByteDance and Snap were having a hearty laugh watching Meta’s image and user base take a beating.

The report showed that it became easier for netizens on these platforms to be cyberbullied — based on criteria such as Race, Religion, Gender, Orientation, etc .. The platform had finally shed its skin from that utopian global village we perceived it to be to a town square that has space for both saints and stalkers. In fact, this is the world that we live in. How did we ever think that even the best social platform would be free form such misuse.

Meta then tried to control this cyberbullying menace, but was not successful on this front and therefore faced considerable flak from all parties. The hypocrisy of these accusations cannot be more starkly visible.

Consider the fact that over the last 10 years countless gun attacks have been carried out in schools in the US and not once has the NRA ever been called upon to appear before congress to account for these killings due to the prevalence of its gun culture. Aha !! But in this case, its the not the gun lobby’s problem — instead it’s conveniently portrayed as a larger problem of mental health. However, the same rules to not apply to Facebook or social media platforms when it comes to cyberbullying!!

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

After the June 6th Attack on the US capitol. Misinformation — the word of the season (or as they claimed) was being perpetrated on these social media platforms by anti-social elements. The irony of this is that Republicans were upset since social media platforms like Meta were more liberal in outlook and had by then evicted their erstwhile beloved commander and chief. The democrats on the other hand still smarting from their 2016 election loss had always held social media responsible. In one go, there was unanimous support from both parties. Social media was the bogeyman, they had to bell the cat.

The last straw came in 2021 when Apple Introduced new privacy restrictions on apps in its app-store as part of reaching a settlement in another class action suit. These restrictions gave its users the option of whether they wish to share their data with any app they install. Suddenly Meta found itself locked outside this huge walled garden of the iPhone. Unable to collect data on its users (who opted out of data sharing), the list of ads on its platform began to trickle down, and the cumulative effect of the above causes led to the big market crash of Feb 2022 that wiped out close to $250 billion of its market value in a single day — a record of sorts.

The stream of bad news doesn’t seem to stop, the longer you stay tuned, the more you feel that Meta has just slipped into an abyss with no way out. However, Meta does still have a few good eggs in its basket. Instagram and Whatsapp for all the negative press are still being used widely across the globe.

Tik Tok, said to be one of Facebook’s biggest competitors recently paid a hefty fine for a similar data theft that Facebook was accused off — selling personal data to 3rd parties. They settled out of court despite pleading innocent of the charges!! Bare in mind that Western Countries bent over backwards 2 years ago to ensure that Huawei was kept away from lucrative 5G implementations in the west — but then again for ByteDance, the rules seem to be different.

Facebook has had a whole ton of bricks hauled at it for quite a while now. While there’s no denying that they could have looked into privacy issues much earlier than just keeping their eyes on add revenues, they cannot be held responsible when regulation was never even in place (and is still being worked out).

One does not shoot the farmer once the horse has bolted, after all, there never was a barn door … and now there may not be a barn too.



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Mario Rozario

Mario Rozario

Runner at Dawn: Trainer by Day: Reader by Night: Dreamer at Midnight..