Why the writing is on the wall for Facebook | Arwa Mahdawi

Uh-oh, looks like Mark Zuckerberg figured out the dastardly media plot to destroy Facebook! As you’ve probably noticed, the tech giant has been in the news nonstop lately, as the media scoured thousands of pages of internal documents leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. Most people would think journalists reporting revelations about one of the world’s most powerful corporations were up to the mark. Zuckerberg, however, seems to think this is some sort of a big plot.

“My take is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked material to paint a false image of our business,” Zuckerberg said during a call for results on Monday. Sounds a bit Trumpy, doesn’t it? Do not be mistaken ; instead, present yourself as the victim of malicious mainstream media.

This is not where the comparisons with Donald Trump end; the two men are surprisingly similar. Both seem to prioritize profits over people. Both extend different rules for celebrities and the powerful than to everyone. The two seem to have an unusual relationship with the facts. And both seem to feel that the United States is the only place in the world that matters. Internal documents seem to show that only 13% of Facebook’s disinformation-moderation Staff hours were spent in countries other than the United States last year, even though their populations represent over 90% of Facebook users.

If I have the impression of confusing Facebook the company with Zuckerberg the man, it’s because I am. Zuckerberg, it’s clear, has unhealthy control over Facebook. “At the moment, Marc [Zuckerberg] is irresponsible, ”Haugen told the Observer. “He’s in control. He has no surveillance. In short, he’s the kind of autocrat you imagine Trump would have liked to be.

Before he lost the 2020 election and legal issues began to mount, Trump was known as “Teflon Don.” He faced scandal after scandal, but nothing seemed to stick to him. Facebook had an equally charmed run. Over the past few years, the company has been mired in endless negative public relations. He was accused of facilitate genocide in Myanmar and turn a blind eye to human trafficking in the Middle East. He was charged with mass surveillance. He has been accused of ignoring Instagram’s impact on teenage mental health. I could go on: there is apparently almost nothing good to say about Facebook. And yet, this negative coverage did not hurt the company’s profits. Its shares are up 25% since January. On Monday, Facebook reported more than $ 9 billion in profits in its most recent financial quarter, as well as a 6% increase in the number of daily active users. It exceeded the expectations of investors.

Does all of this mean Facebook is untouchable? Insensitive to negative headlines? Able to do whatever he wants without any consequences? Not entirely. Facebook’s PR woes have apparently driven top talent away. “Facebook has an extremely small staff… and that’s because there are a lot of technologists looking at what Facebook has been doing, and their reluctance to accept responsibility, and people just aren’t willing to. work there ” Haugen said at a briefing last week. If Facebook cannot attract the most talented technologists, then it will have a hard time growing.

Another existential threat revealed by the Facebook files is how the company is losing ground with young people. Its user base is aging and the kids Facebook needs to involve if it is to remain relevant think the platform is “boring, misleading and negative”. Additionally, internal documents don’t seem particularly optimistic about the company’s ability to turn things around easily. Facebook may have good financial results right now, but its continued success is far from certain. The writing is on the wall.

Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist

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