Facebook is not having a good month. In a short matter of time, the famous social network has faced questions about political bias and its handling of users’ personal data… and now the online giant is spending its own money to try to win back people it has alienated.
Over the last several days, online users have noticed something that was once unimaginable. Facebook has apparently begun a paid ad campaign to woo the public back to the site. Banner advertisements have been spotted on many third-party sites, clearly paid for by the social media outlet as part of a user retention push.
“See the latest from friends and family on Facebook!” one ad pleaded.
“Create a profile now,” another ad suggested. Half a year ago, it would have been inconceivable that anyone not living in a cave didn’t have a Facebook profile already.
It isn’t clear if Facebook has run similar third-party ad campaigns in the past, but it certainly seems odd that a service which promotes itself as the premiere place for other sites to advertise has resorted to off-network ads of its own.
The “#DeleteFacebook” movement could be part of the reason that the network is scrambling to do damage control. That hashtag has become prominent on other platforms like Twitter, as frustrated users announce their intention to walk away from the social network that was once seen as unstoppable.
“I can no longer, in good conscience, use the services of a company that allowed the spread of propaganda and directly aimed it at those most vulnerable,” declared actor Will Ferrell, one of several well-known names who has joined the “#DeleteFacebook” movement.
“I know I am not alone when I say that I was very disturbed to hear about Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of millions of Facebook users’ information in order to undermine our democracy and infringe on our citizens’ privacy,” the comedian continued, according to Variety.
He was referring to a scandal that rocked the technology world, when it was revealed that user data was likely “mined” and used in election targeting without the full consent of individuals.
Then there’s an internal memo where Facebook staff seemed to shrug off the negative and even potentially deadly aspects of a world-spanning social media network.
“In 2016, a top Facebook executive wrote in an internal company memo that said Facebook may be used to coordinate terrorist attacks and that it might cause deaths from bullying, but that those effects were justified in the name of corporate growth,” explained Gizmodo.
For his part, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did apologize for the problems and pledged to take action.
“This was a breach of trust and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time,” Zuckerberg wrote in a full-page apology that appeared in major newspapers. “I promise to do better for you.”
Social networks like Facebook certainly have value in today’s world. They can help friends and family stay connected, and allow people with diverse opinions to share information and debate topics from anywhere on earth.
Free speech is an invaluable tool, especially for increasingly marginalized conservative voices. Facebook can play a role to that end… but it would help if they stopped trying to micro-manage the views of individuals, and treated their own users with respect.
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