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Facebook…Why the Fuss?

facebook ZuckerbergMuch confusion exists over why Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is being grilled by the U.S. government. Given the seriousness of other issues, such as Assad’s chemical attack on his own citizens in Syria, folks are asking, “Don’t we have more important things to discuss?” Facebook users are also questioning why anybody would care that we “liked” a cute puppy or have preferences that are conservative or liberal. The answer is that the subject is complicated and encompasses issues of privacy, safety, and democracy.

Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard computer science student, along with some classmates, invented Facebook in 2004. Facebook is a popular social networking website service where people who join (users) can post comments, share stories and links, play games, post photos and videos, order food and more. Users have the option of going public or keeping information more private. It is estimated that worldwide there are 2.2 billion monthly active Facebook users as of December 2017. Active users are defined as those who have logged into Facebook during a 30-day period. According to statistics.com, the total Facebook audience in the United States is 214 million users, making Facebook the most popular social network in the world.

Per mashable.com, in 2017, Facebook admitted that up to 270 million fake or duplicate accounts may exist. And that’s not Facebook’s only problem. On April 10th Zuckerberg spoke before a Senate Judiciary Committee and Commerce Committee joint hearing in Washington, D.C. He fielded questions from Senators seeking answers about Facebook’s data privacy practices. This is primarily due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cambridge Analytica is a political consulting firm affiliated with Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign. The company has been accused of utilizing Facebook data and the profiles of users to introduce fake news and influence elections. Possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election is being investigated.

Facebook users share a common vulnerability – susceptibility that their information may be shared without their knowledge and that this data can be used to influence them and possibly be used against them. So, many people were asking, “Did Facebook sell our data to Cambridge Analytica?” The answer is no. During Tuesday’s hearing, Zuckerberg clarified this common misconception. “We don’t sell data at all.” Trying to do damage control, Zuckerberg explained that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed information by buying it from an app developer. Zuckerberg admitted failure for not protecting users and said that Facebook is getting to the bottom of Cambridge Analytica’s actions. It is believed that Cambridge Analytica got ahold of the personal data of 87 million Facebook users before trying to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. It is alleged that Russians bought about $100,000 worth of ads on Facebook.

Zuckerberg maintained his composure and explained that the U.S. government and the U.K. government, and others, are investigating the situation. He promised to do a full audit and is working to protect user information. He shared that Facebook has made changes to the platform. Zuckerberg stands by his company’s mission, to connect people and to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. He spoke of the positive outcomes of Facebook, where people have come together via social media to raise $20 million for Hurricane Harvey relief and to promote movements such as the #Metoo campaign against sexual harassment.

During the first hearing, which lasted over five hours, Zuckerberg admitted failure for what happened with Cambridge Analytica and made apologies. He shared, “It is clear now that we didn’t take a broad view of our responsibility.” Zuckerberg said that he was told that Cambridge Analytica had deleted the user data but later learned that it was a lie. However, Zuckerberg has been criticized for failing to alert the FTC of the first breach which took place in 2015. He also neglected to notify Facebook members as it occurred.

The popular social media network is moving forward to address issues of data privacy, fake news, and hate speech. The company is developing artificial intelligence to detect hate speech. Facebook is increasing their staff to work on security and content review. They will rely on advanced software programs to combat bad content and stop fake accounts. The well-spoken CEO also shared that Facebook is doing better to prevent interference and to flag misinformation.

During a second hearing with the House Energy & Commerce Committee, lawmakers continued to seek answers. Many were disappointed when Zuckerberg would not commit to having users ‘opt in’ to all data collection. This was proposed at the first hearing by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Zuckerberg emphasized that Facebook gives users control over data and privacy settings. When asked if he would sue Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg replied, “It’s something that we’re looking into.” One thing is for sure, most lawmakers agree that there needs to be greater oversight to protect user privacy on social media.

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Susan McNeil
3 years ago

I hope he realizes that someone is going to start a business like his so we can get rid of his leftist globalism lunacy. He is not the only one that do an idea like Facebook. I want Congress to act now and male him stop spying on us.

HAM
3 years ago

Oops! My comment tagged by AMAC awaiting moderation. Amazing. nothing in it that can be even remotely be considered offensive. Would love to know what their criteria is.

PaulE
3 years ago
Reply to  HAM

Yeah, we don’t even have to say anything wrong to get flagged. Simply express an opinion or state a fact that AMAC finds objectionable.

Diana Erbio
3 years ago

Another issue that was left out of this article is that many conservatives have had their posts and pages blocked…whereas progressive pages and posts have not suffered that censorship. When asked about this during the hearing Mr Zuckerberg said something like that being an unfortionate error. Also, during the 2012 campaign the Obama campaign retrieved personal data similar to the way Cambridge Analytica did…Mr Zuckerberg did not express concern about that…

PaulE
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana Erbio

Both points absolutely correct. Zuckerberg went to great lengths during his Congressional appearance to not admit that both he and most Facebook employees consider conservatism essentially hate speech. Thus something they feel justified in banning. Check out the three part video series on Project Veritas that gives an accurate view of how most social media employees in Silicon Valley view both conservative policies, as well as what they think should be done to restrict such speech and the users of their services that carry those views. Ted Cruz came the closest to almost getting Zuckerberg to almost admit conservatism equals hate speech from the Facebook perspective.

As for all the fuss over Cambridge Analytica, the great sin is that the Facebook’s sales team didn’t realize the user information they were leasing (yes they do not technically “sell user data”, they lease it to all the companies and organizations they do business with, so Congress worded their question incorrectly) to a company that was NOT progressively orientated. In an environment where Democrats are still rabidly insane over Hillary not be elected and desperate to fix blame to anyone they can, Facebook simply doing the normal business model they have done since inception, which is sharing of user data in exchange for money, is suddenly the greatest crime of the century and worthy of the wrath of massive government regulations and potential fines. In 2012, not only did Facebook give the Obama campaign complete access to all user data on two billion user world-wide, they also provided technical support on how best to leverage that data to reach people in the most effective way to influence Democrat voter turnout. That of course was perfectly OK as it served the goal of keeping a Democrat in the WH.

PaulE
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana Erbio

Well I responded to your post, but it seems AMAC didn’t like it. Censorship from a supposedly conservative organization would be hilarious, if it weren’t so sad.

HAM
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana Erbio

Was he even asked by any Senator or House Rep (specifically Republican) about the fact that Facebook provided the data to Obama’s campaign? If not, why not? Why isn’t everyone making a big deal about privacy issues by Facebook directly. Zuckerberg is dancing around that fact. Data was used the same way both times. This probably would never have been revealed if Analytica had not used it for Trump campaign. That’s the burr under the liberal’s saddle

PaulE
3 years ago
Reply to  HAM

Hi HAM,

The Congressional hearings were NOT about data privacy or the fact that virtually every social media company in existence today operates EXACTLY the same way as Facebook, when it comes to scooping up their users’ data and then leasing (they don’t sell it) it to virtually anyone (company, organization, countries, etc.) willing to pay for it. Facebook and virtually every other social media company out there is in the data mining business. I was in the computer industry for 40 years and I understood back when Facebook was just getting started, what their business model was. Customer data is the product they mine (collect) and then lease to thousands of other entities for whatever they choose to do with it. That business model is what generates $40 billion dollars a year in annual revenue for Facebook and is what allows Zuckerberg to offer Facebook for “free” to his current two billion users world-wide.

The reason for the hearings was because Facebook committed the cardinal sin of leasing a very small part of its data collection (87 million users) to a conservative leaning company and then getting “caught”. I say “caught”, because in fact, Facebook did nothing either illegal based on the disclosure form everyone who signs up for Facebook or any other social media site clicks on or current law. Which is why I don’t belong to any of the major social media sites. In the current political climate where Democrats continue to hyper-ventilate over the fact that Hillary is not in the WH and the socialist agenda has been, at least temporarily stalled and in many cases reversed under Trump, the Democrats need someone to blame for this situation. Zuckerberg is simply the latest target of the left’s ire. Now he will have to prove his loyalty to the Party by writing lots of seven figure checks to aid Democrats.

By the way, reason he met with all those Senators the day before the hearings was essentially to make it very plain to him, if he didn’t already “get it”, that they will leverage current public opinion to push for regulations against Facebook and any other social media web site they deem fit, if he doesn’t contribute a lot more money than usual to their campaign re-election funds. In simple terms, a shakedown. However, since they are the federal government, it is of course not illegal. If his checks are big enough (in the millions), he may even be allowed to help craft the regulations, so he effectively insulates Facebook from the most onerous aspects. The bigger the checks, the less negative impact to Facebook and his personal wealth. While also using any new regulations to crush any potential competitors from rising up down the road. That is why he kept offering to work with Congress on any proposed regulations. Thus the actual hearings were pretty much just a dog and pony show put on to provide the Senators and Congressmen with some free TV time ahead of the mid terms.

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