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Face-to-face with nine times Facebook has received backlash over the years

Written by Anne Struijcken on Thursday, 04 October 2018. Posted in Insight, Analysis

After Facebook latest security breach we took a look at nine of the company’s worst scandals over the years.

Face-to-face with nine times Facebook has received backlash over the years

Photo credit: Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock.com

Mark Zuckerberg’s already bad year just keeps getting worse. On Friday, September 28, Facebook disclosed yet another scandal for the social media platform already beleaguered by privacy concerns. This latest breach saw hackers compromise nearly 50 million users

While Facebook has stated that the security weakness has since been patched, this isn’t the first scandal for the social network. In fact, The Zuck and his creation have been in the news quite a lot over the years regarding data misuse, ethics and decency concerns. 

So to refresh your memory, here is a list of nine other times Facebook and its founder have been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

(1) Cambridge Analytica 

Issues about personal data harvesting is definitely a trend that seems to be going on in 2018, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year affecting up to 87 million Facebook users. If this is not bad enough the data of the users were allegedly collected by Cambridge Analytica and used to influence the presidential election in which Donald Trump was made president of the United States despite many tech honchos‘ concerns about his suitability. The breach had quite an impact on Facebook, knocking off more than $100bn off its share price within days and Zuckerberg even had to testify in front of the United States Congress and the European Parliament regarding the scandal. 

(2) Hurricane Maria

Avatars and virtual reality (VR) seem to get more and more popular with Facebook even having a new VR platform. Although, mixing it with a hurricane and devastated people who just lost everything might not be a great idea. That didn’t stop  Zuckerberg from putting on an Oculus Rift headset together with social VR chef Rachel Franklin. The two were displayed as floating and smiling avatars in front of a 360-degree video from NPR, where they were documenting the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.  The Zuck later recognised that the demonstration may not have made him come across in the right way. He said: “When you're in VR yourself, the surroundings feel quite real. But that sense of empathy doesn't extend well to people watching you as a virtual character on a 2D screen.” Not a great look indeed. 

(3) Written memo 

Facebook’s stated mission is to connect people. Unfortunately, the company’s massive growth can come at a price when it means connecting bullies to victims or when it leads to someone’s death. However, in a memo written in 2016 and leaked in March 2018,  Facebook vice president Andrew Bosworth didn’t seem to have a problem with that. “The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good,” he wrote in the memo released by BuzzFeed. While both Bosworth and Zuckerberg have since denounced that view, it’s not surprising that many people lose faith in the social media platform when these views come to light. 

(4) Russian fake news 

Yet another scandal that has to do with the 2016 presidential campaign. Facebook confirmed last year that Russian accounts had purchased over $100,000 in advertisements. This was part of an effort US intelligence services where Kremlin-backed agents attempted to disrupt the presidential election with these ads and by spreading fake news to give Trump an advantage, according to The New York Times. Facebook was later questioned about its role in distributing fake news, prompting Zuckerberg to issue a statement about what he planned to do about the spread of fake news. “We've been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously,” he said. “We've made significant progress but there is more work to be done.” Luckily, The Zuck isn’t alone. In fact, there are multiple startups rising to the challenge too

(5) Scanning your pictures and links

Zuckerberg confirmed in an interview earlier this year that Facebook scans pictures and links that you send via Facebook’s Messenger service. This raised some security concerns by users, making people question if all their messages were being read. Facebook reacted to these questions by saying that it just scans pictures with a program to look for child exploitation and scans links to ensure there’s no malware or virus behind it. It reads some messages but only if they are flagged by moderators, making sure that there is no abusive behaviour on the platform. Still, given the other privacy concerns raised about the social media platform over the years, it’s hardly surprising the revelation struck a nerve with some people.

(6) Spreading hate in Myanmar 

The UN wasn’t subtle in March 2018 when it reported that Facebook had “turned into a beast” in Myanmar. The social networking service was blamed for spreading hate speech in Myanmar, by not filtering out posts that carry hate speech and propaganda, causing the death and agony of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas. Facebook said earlier this year that they detect dangerous and hateful messages but still didn’t manage to filter out everything. In response, the company announced in April that it would hire more Burmese-speaking moderators to filter out hate speech on the platform. However, as of August, Reuterswas still able to find thousands of examples of propaganda, pornography and incitements of ethnic violence against the Rohingya community. 

(7) Tracking non-users 

You might think, “Thank god I don’t have a Facebook account with all these privacy scandals going on.” Well, sorry to break it to you but that may not be enough. Even when you don’t have a Facebook account you can still be a victim of one of their scandals with Facebook admitting in April to tracking non-users and collecting their data. The network responded in a statement to Reuters: “This kind of data collection is fundamental to how the internet works.” Still, not a great look if you’re already being accused of haemorrhaging data from the people who did sign up to your services. 

(8) Failed to remove child porn 

Reporting a post that doesn’t belong on Facebook is quite easily done but what does the social networking site about actually deleting them? Apparently not that much, according to a BBC investigation in 2017. The investigation was launched to test Facebook’s moderators after previous reports had unveiled networks of known paedophiles had used the network to share child porn and organise meet-ups. In the 2017 report, it was revealed that  80% of child abuse images reported by the BBC were not removed from Facebook. Ironically, when the BBC responded to Facebook’s request to resend the images, the social media network responded by reporting the broadcaster to the authorities. Facebook relies on an algorithm that categorises as much of its reported content but unfortunately, reports like this one shows that the method isn’t 100% effective. 

(9) Lawsuits against Hawaiians  

This might be the last item on our list but it’s definitely not the last time we’re going to hear from Facebook. Zuckerberg and his wife filed lawsuits in December 2016 to buy small bits of land around the waterfront estate they own in Hawaii but soon realised he made a mistake. Many issues evolved around the fact that there were two conflicting legal attitudes towards land. Hawaiians view Kuleana land as especially important because they view the land as an ancestor or family member, not as a possession. Hawaiian people were angry at the fact that Zuckerberg and his wife had filed the so-called "quiet title and partition" suits because quiet title suits are meant to clarify the ownership of the lands and can result in owners having to sell the land. Many natives criticised the suits as a form of neocolonialism. Following the backlash, Zuckerberg and his wife dropped the suits and apologised for the mistake they made.

This is not all the dirt there is to find on Facebook but it’s enough to question whether or not Zuckerberg has done enough to protect your personal data. 

About the Author

Anne Struijcken

Anne Struijcken

As editorial intern and in her last year of university, Anne has joined the Elite team to get a taste of what journalism is all about. Outside the office Anne has a pure interest in everything that is going on in the business landscape, has a big passion for art and definitely loves her food. She will be on the lookout for new stories to tell. So make sure you stay in touch.

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