Off the Wall: Unfriendly Facebook

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Eons ago I signed up on Facebook. The whole experience lasted exactly three hours. 

The moment my account was registered I was flooded with requests to become a "friend," my entire email address book became public property and I was instantly inundated with solicitations and messages, even people I didn't know wanted to be my "friends."  

I have never been so popular. 

Passing acquaintances, strangers, long-lost family members I didn't care to communicate with, co-workers, people with my same last name, I had no idea who they were, and why were they writing me from Brazil, Venezuela, Italy? I quickly realized my privacy was on parade and proceeded to delete my account. It has never been revived. One of the best decisions I have ever made. FB to me is email on crack. 

Facebook is in hot waters. It turns out the company let a "research spider" crawl through its social network and spawn a web collecting information on 50 million people. The data was used to target likely Trump supporters. As if it wasn't enough that the Russians used Facebook to spread disinformation/misinformation during the last presidential elections. 

Facebook now claims that it has been experimenting with a fact-checking function to keep its news feed honest, but these efforts feel lukewarm and condescending.  

The end result is that our Democracy is on its knees and the sense of control over our destinies has been crushed. Europe is far ahead of us. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation went into effect May 25 and tightens the rules for handling employee and consumer data which includes addresses, photos, financial records, travel plans, web search history and more. The most serious violations can result in fines up to $25 million. 

Do we trust our Congress to bring about the same type of regulation? Do we trust Congress to use a corkscrew to open a bottle of wine? 

Since nothing will ever come out of Congress, the punishment must come from its users or from its stock holders. This is beginning to happen. The phrase #DeleteFacebook has flooded social media, and for the first time daily user counts are falling and the time spent on the site plummeted by 50 million hours a day. In the beginning of July the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office fined FB 500k pounds ($ 660k) for its role in the Cambridge Analytica data breach. The penalty is the maximum allowed under U.K. law. FB said it will respond to the judgement “soon.” To add insult to injury on Thursday, July 26, Facebook lost about $120 billion in market capitalization, after its earnings report showed  missed expectations on revenue and slowing user growth. Weak guidance also rattled investors. 

The stock closed down 19 percent which means that investors erased the entirety of the company’s 2018 gains. 

Chief Financial Officer David Wehner disclosed that the social media giant expects the revenue-growth slowdown to continue. As Facebook stock plummeted, it also brought social-media rivals Twitter and Snapchat to the party. It initially sent Snapchat down in the single digits, though it rebounded and closed down 0.2 percent. Twitter stock closed down 2.9 percent.  

The chickens are coming home to roost. Facebook is irresponsible, unethical, arrogant, dangerous, greedy and deserves to be severely punished and repudiated. They are the new polluters, they are spilling toxic brain poison in our thinking reservoirs. One thing is certain: Facebook’s stock plunge shatters faith in tech companies’ invincibility and arrogance. That is a good beginning.   

John Oliver, the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” hit the nail on the head with the following parody of Facebook’s latest problems: “Your data enabled us to make a fuck-ton of money from corporations, app developers and political campaigns... Seriously you guys, we were making so much money off of you, you don't even understand. But then, you found out about it. And we had to testify and issue bullshit apology ads, all so we could lose $120 billion."  

But what will Facebook do going forward? "Nothing's really gonna change. We've got your data. We've got your friends. And, really, where are you gonna go? Friendster? Fuck you." 


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