Uh-oh, it looks as if Mark Zuckerberg has caught on to the media’s dastardly plot to destroy Facebook! As you have probably noticed, the technology behemoth has been in the news nonstop recently, as media outlets plough through thousands of pages of internal documents leaked by the Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. Most people might think journalists reporting revelations about one of the world’s most powerful companies was par for the course. Zuckerberg, however, seems to think it’s some sort of vast conspiracy.

“My view is that what we’re seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company,” Zuckerberg said during an earnings call on Monday. Sounds a little Trumpy, doesn’t it? Admit no wrong; instead, cast yourself as the victim of the malicious mainstream media.

That is not where the Donald Trump comparisons end; the two men are strikingly similar. Both seem to prioritise profits over people. Both extend different rules to celebrities and the powerful than to everyone else. Both seem to have an unusual relationship with facts. And both seem to reckon that the US is the only place in the world that matters. Internal documents appear to show that only 13% of Facebook’s misinformation-moderation staff hours were devoted to non-US countries last year, even though their populations comprise more than 90% of Facebook’s users.

If it sounds as if I am conflating Facebook the company with Zuckerberg the man, by the way, it’s because I am. Zuckerberg, it’s clear, exerts an unhealthy amount of control over Facebook. “Right now, Mark [Zuckerberg] is unaccountable,” Haugen told the Observer. “He has all the control. He has no oversight.” In short, he is the sort of autocrat you imagine Trump wishes he could have been.

Before he lost the 2020 election and legal troubles started to mount, Trump was known as “Teflon Don”. He faced scandal after scandal, but nothing seemed to stick to him. Facebook has had a similarly charmed run. Over the past few years, the company has been mired in endless negative PR. It has been accused of facilitating genocide in Myanmar and turning a blind eye to human trafficking in the Middle East. It has been accused of mass surveillance. It has been accused of ignoring Instagram’s impact on the mental health of teenage girls. I could go on: there is seemingly almost nothing good to say about Facebook. And yet, that negative coverage hasn’t hurt the company’s profits. Its shares are up 25% since January. On Monday, Facebook reported more than $9bn in profits during its most recent financial quarter, along with a 6% increase in daily active users. It has exceeded investor expectations.

Does all this mean that Facebook is untouchable? Impervious to negative headlines? Able to do whatever it likes with zero consequences? Not entirely. Facebook’s PR problems have apparently made it leak top talent. “Facebook is extremely thinly staffed … and this is because there are a lot of technologists that look at what Facebook has done, and their unwillingness to accept responsibility, and people just aren’t willing to work there,” Haugen said in a briefing last week. If Facebook can’t attract the most talented technologists, then it’s going to have a very hard time growing.

Another existential threat revealed by the Facebook files is the extent to which the company is losing traction with young people. Its user base is ageing and the kids that Facebook needs to engage if it wants to remain relevant think the platform is “boring, misleading and negative”. What’s more, internal documents don’t seem particularly optimistic that the company can turn this around easily. Facebook may be performing well financially for the moment, but its continued success is far from a given. The writing is on the wall.

Source: Why the writing is on the wall for Facebook | Arwa Mahdawi

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