Face Off With Facebook

Face Off With Facebook

We rarely think of social media sites as a tech company. The most popular one has grown to such proportions that it is a monopoly. We look at how Americans feel about this development and what is likely in store for the tech giant Facebook.

Anjali Krishnan
Anjali Krishnan

The social networking service started by Mark Zuckerberg along with his fellow Harvard roommates in 2004 is today available in 111 languages, in most countries of the world and boasts a staggering 2.8 billion monthly active users, according to its Wikipedia page.

While that in itself is impressive, what is consequential is that Facebook Inc. has acquired close to a hundred companies in the past decade, including those with substantial user bases like WhatsApp and Instagram. It’s a strategy considered monopolistic; most acquisitions were to stifle competition and were often shut down.

The TIPP Poll conducted in late April asked participants, “Please tell me the extent to which you support or oppose breaking up of Facebook to prevent it from becoming a potential monopoly.” More than half of those who took part in the survey were in favor. The data reads,

  • 57% were in favor of breaking up Facebook
  • 25% opposed the move
  • 18% were undecided

Further, we found that

  • 44% of those from the West,
  • 41% of the high-income group,
  • 41% of males, and
  • 37% of those in the 25- 44 age group

‘strongly supported’ the move to break up the company.

About a fifth, 21% of youngsters (18-24 years), 20% of seniors, 23% of women, 20% of those with less than 30K income, and 20% of independents were undecided on the issue.

Users Are Assets

It is estimated that 190 million Americans use Facebook. Almost a quarter of its global Facebook users fall in the 18-24 age category, while a little more than a third are between the ages of 25-34 years. A third of its users are on Instagram, while one in five uses WhatsApp.

Facebook’s mission statement is “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Users have made such fantastic use of the networking sites and the company’s offerings that ‘Facebook’ is synonymous with ‘friendship.’

But, once Facebook consolidated its position as one of the most popular social networking sites, it put privacy considerations on the back burner. It went ahead with an aggressive, often furtive, and largely non-consensual surveillance of its users on and off its platforms. Such large-scale data collection and online tracking have left users vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation in the hands of corporates, advertisers, and those pushing divisive agendas.

While it goes about “connecting people,” it also collects data, making it a Mecca for advertisers.

Advertisers Are Clients

Almost all of Facebook’s revenue is generated through ads on FB and Instagram. There are close to 10 million businesses that advertise on Facebook. Analysts put the company’s revenue at around $86 billion in 2020, with a net income of $29bn. The company is second only to Google in ad revenue in the U.S.

While Facebook at face value is free, entertaining, and uplifting, the truth is the users are surrendering their privacy, handing over their personal data, and opening themselves to subtle manipulation/influence.

Americans Are Worried

The majority, in some regards, almost three-quarters of Americans are well aware and concerned about the pervasive surveillance and lopsided power that companies like Facebook wield.

The responses to the TIPP Poll survey show how concerned they are regarding privacy, pricing, and prejudice.  The data shows that

  • 73% believe consumers will have less privacy
  • 73% worry that consumer data will be misused or compromised
  • 73% are concerned smaller businesses will be at a disadvantage
  • 71% say consumers will pay a higher price
  • 66% feel consumers will have fewer choices
  • 66% think they will be unable to get news and opinions from different perspectives
  • 64% feel the freedom of speech and expression will be restricted

The power of conglomerates like Facebook is such that they have brought together politicians and policymakers from both sides of the aisle. Though Republicans were slightly more concerned than Democrats regarding the restrictions on freedom of speech, both parties were equally troubled about differing voices being suppressed. Both sides agreed that price manipulation was to be expected and that small businesses would be adversely affected. Democrats were slightly more concerned about the safety of personal data and privacy issues.

Time For Face Off

Facebook has dominated the sphere of social networking so systematically and comprehensively that it has left no room for competition to sprout, let alone flourish. For almost a decade, that has been no new major social networking company!

The most popular social networking apps and sites - Instagram, Whatsapp, Messenger, and Facebook – are essentially one company, making it a little “too connected” for comfort.

While Facebook claims that it offers its users unlimited choices, that is not how it works. Algorithms and advertising revenue control what shows up on the news feed and what doesn’t.

Beyond social networking, these mediums are also used for propaganda and to spread fake news. There have been allegations that the social networking site was used to influence elections unfairly and is rampant with hate speech and bullying.

The colossal amount of personal data in the hands of the company has long worried technocrats and governments. The focus on the safety of personal data in the Facebook database has increased manifold since the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Changing Face

One of Facebook founders and the one with controlling interest today, Mark Zuckerberg, has welcomed “more government regulation — not just on speech, but also on privacy and interoperability, the ability of consumers to seamlessly leave one network and transfer their profiles, friend connections, photos, and other data to another.”

While some might say that the company is just passing the buck, the buck is likely to soon roll to a stop. With Congressional hearings, antitrust lawsuits, and hefty fines, the authorities are awake and listening to the concerns of ordinary Americans regarding social networking sites and apps. The executive is gearing up to regulate the Big Tech, and one can hope, the domain will revert to what it set out to do, “bring the world closer together.”

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TIPP Takes

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  • Taiwan and China have embarked on a war of words about vaccines, as the medical system in Taiwan faces pressure amid an outbreak with only about 1 percent of the population of more than 23 million vaccinated.
  • Taiwan says China blocked it from getting vaccines produced by Germany's BioNTech. While China says, it is happy to send a supply of that vaccine via its Chinese sales agent, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co.
  • A senior Taiwan official said that China had not used an existing channel to discuss medical issues, which has been used to exchange information on COVID-19 cases, to address the vaccine question.
  • However, Taiwan will not take the vaccines from Fosun, saying that there is a lack of transparency and that China refuses to provide relevant information.

Ambassador Denied Access To 'Arbitrary' Trial Of Australian In China

  • The Australian ambassador to China said it was "regrettable" that the embassy was denied access to a trial due to start today for a Chinese Australian man charged with espionage.
  • Yang Hengjun has been held since arriving in China in January 2019 and has had no access to family and only limited contact with his lawyer, the Australian government has said.
  • Authorities have not released any details of the charges against Mr. Yang, a novelist. According to some unverified reports, he formerly worked for China's Ministry of State Security as an intelligence agent.
  • China has only said that the charge against Mr. Yang involves espionage.
  • Australian diplomats last met with Mr.Yang via video link last month and conveyed messages to and from his family.
  • Mr. Yang appeared to be in satisfactory health and had access to legal representation.

Lukashenko Is 'Turning Belarus Into The North Korea of Europe,' Says Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

  • The European Union's strategy against the administration of Belarus President hasn't worked, says the country's exiled opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
  • Ms. Tsikhanouskaya said she believes Russia is part of the problem when it comes to Belarus and that the bloc should clarify that any financial deals with the Lukashenko regime cannot be allowed to happen.
  • "I call on the EU to deny any kind of financial support or governmental requests and refrain from all new foreign investments in Belarus and new credit lines to Belarusian banks," Tsikhanouskaya said.
  • In his first public remarks since the Ryanair flight diverted to the Belarusian capital, Lukashenko stood defiant, accusing his "ill-wishers" of having "crossed many red lines."
  • The President claimed that Roman Protasevich, the arrested Belarusian journalist and activist, had planned a "bloody rebellion" but gave no evidence for or details around the claim.
  • He also accused the West of waging a "hybrid war" against him.

New Dark Matter Map Reveals Cosmic Mystery

  • An international team of researchers has created the largest and most detailed map of the distribution of so-called Dark Matter in the Universe.
  • The results, published by the Dark Energy Survey Collaboration, are a surprise because they show that it is slightly smoother and more spread out than the current best theories predict.
  • The observation appears to stray from Einstein's theory of general relativity - posing a conundrum for researchers.
  • Dark Matter is an invisible substance that permeates space. It accounts for 80% of the Matter in the Universe.


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