A difficult week has passed for Facebook. At first the services of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger were closed for six hours. While the company’s staff was busy fixing the error, billions of users around the world were deprived of their services. Frances Hausen, a former employee of the company, then took part in the hearing of the US Senate committee and leaked various confidential information on Facebook. He said that Facebook’s focus is on business rather than protecting people. They are harming children, weakening democracy.
In the wake of Hausen’s remarks, Facebook has defended itself in various ways. Nevertheless, some legal and political action may be taken against the company. Hausen’s testimony to a U.S. Senate committee reminded the world, albeit unintentionally, of the urgency of the issue.
These two incidents are not isolated. If this sounds isolated to you, then you have no idea about Facebook’s growing market control efforts as a social media. Currently, 200 million people in 180 countries around the world use the WhatsApp messaging app. 350 crore people use Facebook. Although Instagram is not as popular as these two sites, it is gaining importance in running small businesses in many countries.
There is no doubt that these social media have become important in the global digital arena due to the huge number of users. This means that if it is abused due to an internal decision of the company, it has to be considered with much more importance. After the publication of this horrible information inside Facebook, it is natural that questions arise about the responsibility of the organization towards the users. A simple but fundamental question in this case is, are they ready for the future that Facebook is creating for people? Are we ready to live in the future?
Some may come up with pure economic arguments in this case. They will say, as long as the company runs, it should be allowed to grow. And whatever it is, the company is creating jobs, developing the economy. But neither employment nor the economy is out of the social and political context. If a social catastrophe happens because of a company, then it has no value. The rationale for allowing a company to grow indefinitely is very weak. Especially when Hausen says that Facebook is not willing to change itself at all on the question of profit, no matter how much it harms the society.
With the leak of Facebook’s services and leaked information about the company’s management policy, it is time to reconsider this economic model. This incident reminds us whether such a concentration of power is right for a company. It is important to question what role social media will play in the future.
Facebook is causing an unprecedented concentration of information. They want to control the information through this. We do not want to accept that facilitating communication means that those who have ulterior motives will also find it easier to communicate. The model in which Facebook is doing business needs to be rigorously analyzed. What can Facebook do with the information that people are giving through social media? Why would commercial information be used differently than political information? Why would advertising be the only model for social media revenue? What to do in societies and markets where the company has not yet registered, but is making a profit? These are philosophical questions in the post-digital age society. It is not possible to solve this question with the boastful words of economic development.
As history has shown, many big companies have been created, they have also made an impact in the society. When they are closed, other companies fill in the blanks. But there was no end to the warnings about Facebook since its inception. Social responsibility to economic growth has been defeated there. During the hearing, Hausen came up with a strong observation about Facebook. According to him, as long as Facebook’s goals are not changing, it is not right to expect change from Facebook. The goal that drives the company comes from the logic of the neo-liberal economy. This is true not only of Facebook, but also of other organizations. The size of the company must increase at any cost.
It is time to reconsider this economic model by leaking information about the closure of Facebook services and the company’s management policy. This incident reminds us whether such a concentration of power is right for a company. It is important to question the role that social media will play in the future.
Taken from Al-Jazeera, abbreviated translation from English