Shame on Facebook
The Justice Department recently announced that it was planning to investigate giant tech companies for anti-trust violations, but what it should really investigate is how those companies violate the public trust, especially Facebook, who has repeatedly had dirty hands when it comes to a variety of ethics issues, ranging from privacy to politics.
On the privacy front, Facebook has been lax for many years. In 2014, for example, over 11,000 users joined a European class action suit against Facebook for failing to protect their private data. Given that litigation and other complaints, you’d think that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg would have self-regulated his empire. But four years later, he was still fighting the same battles. That’s when the FTC opened an investigation to determine Facebook’s possible role in facilitating the sharing and selling of private information belonging to 50 million users, to political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Meanwhile, that same year, Fortune.com reports that several users sued Facebook for illegally collecting logs of private phone calls and text messages.
On the political front, Facebook was, at best, an unwitting party to the hacking of our 2016 Presidential election. It should have been enough for Zuckerberg that the Trump campaign spent the bulk of its $90 million digital ad budget with Facebook, but, according to Yahoo News, the tech wizard also accepted over 3,000 ads from a Russian company. He also allowed countless anti-Hillary fake news stories to be posted by Russian operatives, which, according to WIRED.com, helped Trump raise $250 million in online campaign contributions from people who believed the fake news was true. The posting of disinformation is one reason that Robert Mueller handed down 37 indictments to 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies who directly or indirectly influenced the 2016 election.
Thus far, Zuckerberg has escaped prosecution for aiding, abetting, or otherwise tacitly assisting individuals, companies and campaigns who violated the personal privacy of millions of people and hacked our last Presidential election, so I suppose he thinks he is invincible. Otherwise, he would have acted quickly to delete a recent video post of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appearing to be drunk during a press conference. Video of Pelosi had been expertly edited to make the Speaker look like she was slurring her words, but a side-by-side comparison proved that the video had been doctored. Youtube immediately took down the fake video, but Facebook left it up where it soon went viral, thanks in part to Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani. When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper why Facebook didn’t remove the video, Monika Bickerts, Facebook vice president of product policy and counterterrorism said, “We think it’s important for people to make an informed choice about what to believe.” She also argued that leaving the doctored video up for everyone to see would spur public discussion. I’m pretty sure her lame response would have been different if someone had posted a fake video of Zuckerberg acting drunk.
So there you have it, folks. Facebook thinks it’s too big to prosecute and too powerful to be held accountable for its actions. Facebook is no longer a social media platform; it is a social disease. It’s a cancer that is spreading and engulfing our entire democratic political process while violating our own individual rights to privacy. That’s why Congress needs to regulate social media the same way it regulates the broadcast media. And when those regulations are violated, offenders like Facebook should be shut down by the Federal government, the same way the FCC can pull the license from an offending T.V. station.
It’s no wonder that so many people are opting out of the Facebook universe. Unfortunately, millions more remain active on Zuckerberg’s power platform, including those who believe everything they read. If only the rest of us could reach them and tell them to beware of “Face News.”
Jim Longworth is the host of Triad Today, airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).