Mark Zuckerberg can’t catch a break — even from people to whom he’s paid literally billions of dollars, like WhatsApp creator Brian Acton.
For over a year, he’s been battling accusations that he helped throw the 2016 presidential election Donald Trump’s way — a cardinal sin among Silicon Valley types — through the promulgation of “fake news,” some of which originated and/or was funded by Russians, who spent a whopping $100,000 on Facebook ads.
(Never mind that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent $1.2 billion on her losing campaign. Obviously, the .0083 percent of that figure spent by the Russians on Facebook, much of it after the campaign was over, was far more influential.)
Prompted perhaps by guilt over Facebook’s involvement in the election (however great or small it might have been in reality) and certainly fearing regulation from overzealous politicians looking to score points by appearing to “do something about fake news” on social media, Zuckerberg then decided to take a public political stand — sort of. Hiding behind half-hearted claims of semi-objectivity, Facebook declared that it would now have a “point of view” when it came to news appearing news feeds.
Of course, it also claimed that we’d all be seeing about 20 percent less news in our feeds, and the impact has obviously been significantly higher than that, so you can take any claims Facebook makes with a shaker full of salt.
Regardless of Zuckerberg’s intent, the result, as analysis by The Western Journal pointed out, was an estimated 2 percent increase in desktop traffic from Facebook for left-leaning publishers and a 14 percent decrease in traffic for right-leaning publishers. (And those are conservative estimates.)
If he thinks that’s how a company goes about avoiding government regulation, he’s got another think coming. Facebook officials are scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill this week, Fox News reported.
And the hits just kept on coming. First, it was revealed Friday that Cambridge Analytica had misused some Facebook data on behalf of Trump’s presidential campaign (which, to be fair, is hardly Facebook’s fault).
But on the heels of that news came the revelation that liberals had used similar data in similar ways on behalf of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, with Facebook’s tacit (and perhaps explicit) approval — and that’s clearly Facebook’s fault.
All of that combined led to the trending #DeleteFacebook hashtag on Twitter Wednesday — and one of the users who tweeted it was Acton, who, along with co-founder Jan Koum, sold WhatsApp to Facebook in 2014 for $16 billion.
“It is time,” Acton wrote.
Both WhatsApp and the billionaire Acton himself decline further comment to TheVerge for a story about the tweet and the trending hashtag.
Of course, Acton, who recently invested $50 million to WhatsApp alternative Signal, may have been acting in a spirit of competition, hoping to create more market space for his new app.
All of this has led to a decline in Facebook’s stock price of almost 11 percent this week, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company is worth about $54 billion less than it was just a week ago.
The Verge noted that other former Facebook insiders had expressed serious concerns about the company:
“Acton is not the first former Facebook executive to express unease about the company after leaving it. Last year, former head of growth Chamath Palihapitiya caused a firestorm after saying ‘we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.’ Other former executives to express regrets include Sean Parker, Justin Rosenstein, and investor Roger McNamee.”
Zuckerberg himself broke his silence about the ongoing controversies in a Facebook post Wednesday. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” he wrote.
Finally, a statement from Facebook we can trust.
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