The adage “all publicity is good publicity” is failing Facebook right now, because pretty much all the news about them is yet another story about them being shady.
In the latest edition of “Oh crap, wait, Facebook did WHAT NOW?,” the New York Times put together a showcase of the many ways Facebook is getting sketchier and sketchier about privacy and the user experience anytime those collide with potential growth.
The entire article is worth reading, but here are the bullet point highlights:
- Facebook was aware for quite some time that foreign governments used Facebook as a propaganda tool and a way to crack down on opposing views.
- Facebook considered whether Trump’s language against Muslims was hate speech and then basically ignored it.
- Facebook was more concerned with their reputation than they were that Russian interference used the site to push propaganda, to the point where they did not want to shut down fake pages because that would have called attention to the issue.
- Facebook hired an extremely sketchy PR firm to slam Google and Apple because they wanted the attention away from Facebook.
- Zuckerberg was so offended by Tim Cook’s comments about user privacy that he made the management team switch to Android.
- No one at Facebook cares about you.
- If it comes down to telling users the truth or protecting Facebook, assume you’ll never hear the truth.
The worst part is that companies and users will continue to rely on Facebook. It’s become deeply ingrained in our culture, and it is harder and harder to exist without a social media footprint. But Facebook has shown users, time and time again, that they do not care about you. They do not care if you’re seeing real news. They do not care if your information is being shared with shady advertisers. They do not care if someone is stealing information. The only time they care is if it impacts them. There’s been plenty of think-pieces about how self-absorbed social media makes us, but Facebook itself is the most self-absorbed of all.
Look, it’s very likely most people aren’t going to up and quit Facebook over this because it’s hard to 100% walk away from the service. I maintain my Facebook page for two reasons: I have friends who communicate via messenger, and there’s a specific private group about food allergies that often has useful information on safe brands I can feed my son. Beyond those two things, I avoid everything Facebook these days because I don’t trust it, and I don’t need it that badly. If you’re freaked by this, and you don’t want to cancel your Facebook page entirely, just consider how much you share on social media. Imagine that your boss’s boss is reading your Facebook page whenever you post. If you see news on Facebook, don’t assume any of it is true until you verify directly with the source.
Facebook is not your friend. Facebook has no incentive to police the people who abuse their site without being publicly shamed, and there’s no reason to assume any of that is changing. Treat Facebook like that super gossipy acquaintance, someone who you’re polite to but don’t overshare, because you never know where that information will go next. Unless there’s a huge management change or an exodus of users, Facebook will continue on this path of opaque and vague assurances with no transparency to back it up.