Cambridge Analytica Just The Latest Woe For Facebook

Mar 30, 2018
Originally published on March 30, 2018 9:28 am

The world’s most popular social media network is in big trouble.

In less than two weeks, Facebook has watched its stock drop $90 billion - almost 20 percent of its value. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the company, and founder Mark Zuckerberg has been summoned by Congress and the British Parliament to answer allegations that Facebook shared user data without permission.

Here’s what could be the worst part - some of Facebook’s 1.8 billion users are actually saying they plan to delete their accounts. And that explains why Zuckerberg is in major damage control mode, announcing new security measures and telling the New York Times and CNN he’s really, really sorry.

Kelly McBride from The Poynter Institute says Zuckerberg’s more worried about what government regulators will do to the business model of what’s become the sixth most-valuable company in the world. More so, McBride said, this is only the latest in a string of bad news for Facebook, dating back more than two years.

“First there was the story of the (Facebook) Trending Stories staff not putting on conservative sources, then there was the ‘fake news’ problem,” she said. “Last year, there were a ton of stories of how bad social media was for you and your children. Then there was more research that showed that Facebook was addictive. And THEN there were the Russians and their bots and that they had infiltrated Facebook. And now we have the latest scandal.”

The news McBride mentions is that a British company called Cambridge Analytica scraped data from a quiz on Facebook, and pulled personal information from quiz takers and all of their friends. Information on 50 million people was obtained and used to promote then presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign.

McBride said she’s perplexed that this is the scandal that tipped everyone against Facebook.

“So is this it? This is the turning point? Because everything that Cambridge Analytica was doing was mostly legal under Facebook’s terms,” she said.

“What’s new here is the reporting by The London Observer and The New York Times demonstrates that Facebook knew that Cambridge Analytica employees were bad actors, and that…some of the people at CA were really, really bad people because they were actually promising to break democracy. And NOW Congress is upset, and people are turning against FB? I would have predicted the Russian bots would push people over the edge, not this one.”

The big question remains about whether governments really crack down on Facebook. McBride predicts regulations will be more likely in Europe than in the U.S. In the meantime, she said American consumers can do a few things, starting with deleting the Facebook app from your phone and reducing how much you use it.

“If you are going to delete your account, first download all the data,” she said. “But also recognize that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp, which are the two logical replacements to Facebook. So realize you’re really trapped. You can’t get away from Facebook.”

Copyright 2018 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.