Mark Zuckerberg Loses $7 Billion, Facebook Under Fire for Choosing Profit over the Public Good
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s creator and chief executive officer, has had better days than today.
Not only did he lose $7 billion in just a few hours after Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went offline at 11:30am, but yesterday, former Facebook product manager Francis Haugen leaked to the Wall Street Journal damaging internal documents that show that Facebook consistently chooses “to make more money,” rather than ferret out misinformation.
For instance, Haugen, who is 37, partially blamed the Jan. 6 US Capitol Riot on Facebook, which she said could have done much more to disallow the publication of misinformation, such as that the election was “stolen” by President Joe Biden and that “fraud” took place.
Sadly, Haugen said that politically motivated misinformation generates more interest online than the truth.
Facebook optimizes content that gets engagement, which generates profit, said Haugen, who added that “Facebook’s own research” shows that what gets the most reactions is content that “is hateful, that is divisive, and that is polarizing.”
Although Zuckerberg was worth $140 billion before Sept. 13, when the Wall Street Journal began to publish a series of articles based the internal documents, provided by Haugen, revealing that Facebook was fully aware that Instagram was causing harm to the mental health of teenage girls’ mental health and that the proliferation of misinformation on social media influenced many to participate in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, after the articles were published, the Facebook creator has lost approximately $19 billion.
“Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money,” charged Haugen, who has already filed reams of anonymous complaints with federal authorities against the Facebook, and she is set to testify before Congress this week.
Aiming to unload their shares, many Facebook stockholders today sold them at lower prices: sending the social-media’s stock to free-fall by 5%, which just adds to the decrease in Facebook’s stock value, which has dropped 15% since mid-September.
Facebook’s plummeting stock prices today again drove Zuckerberg’s net worth down to $120.9 billion, which placed him at Number 5, below Microsoft founder Bill Gates, on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Facebook users are perhaps not surprised by the Journal’s findings, but government officials perhaps are finally paying attention to dangers of social media in creating fake news and influencing groups to believe misinformation and to think exactly alike.
In response, Facebook has emphasized that political polarization and emotionally fragile adolescents, which have many complex causes, cannot be blamed only on technology.
“I think it gives people comfort to assume that there must be a technological or a technical explanation for the issues of political polarization in the United States,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, told CNN.
Haugen, however, says that Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp as well, can do much more to calm hate speech and protect the public good from toxic public discourse.