If life were fair, we’d all be using Twitter instead of Facebook. But life is only fair in our imagination and the stories we tell ourselves through our movies and religions. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse in the ethically challenged world of Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg just returned from a speaking tour to promote Facebook’s official policy to allow political advertising on FB that blatantly lies or promotes untruths, a fact the Trump re-election campaign had already been taking advantage of, which is what prompted the formal public announcement. Zuckerberg also reiterated they will not be fact-checking political ads, claiming that lying in political ads “is an issue of freedom of speech”. (Since lying and spreading fallacious statements is a constitutional right.) But no one is buying it. Facebook employees reacted by sending the CEO a petition of protest stating they don’t agree with the policy. A few well known money managers liquidated Facebook’s stock from their portfolios stating they couldn’t own the company in good conscience because “Facebook’s blatant lack of integrity and constant assault on truth is disgusting”. Even longtime FB haters have been shocked by this latest policy decision. Analysts on yesterday’s earnings call threw Zuck plenty of life preservers hoping he would adjust or clarify the decision. But before he could say anything, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey beat him to the punch by Tweeting and issuing a press release (at the exact start time of FB’s earnings call) to announce it would no longer allow any political advertising on its platform globally due to the proliferation of fallacious and misleading statements, stating “political message influence should be earned, not bought.” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff went on record saying that “Facebook is the most dangerous company in the world today” (though he may have temporarily forgotten about Lockheed Martin et al.) calling them “the Big Tobacco of our time”. (Mark is a good guy but has always been prone to hyperbole.)
So… all around bad news right? Wrong. For us, yes. For the world, sure. But not for Facebook. Facebook reported yet another stellar earnings report last night. Advertising revenue has not decelerated, but continues to grow. Monthly and daily average user numbers are still growing. Facebook is one of the largest countries on planet earth, for perspective, with DAUs of 1.6 billion. Compared to only 150 million for TWTR. The companies aren’t comparable on any metric. Some on Main Street have voiced their concern by stopping using FB and switching to Instagram. The joke is obviously on them since Insta is FB.
For some, yesterday was an existential line in the sand, the ethical battle lines clearly drawn between the good and the bad, the heroic and villainous, the helpful versus harmful. Dorsey didn’t just abstain from making a judgment call that harms the world community for a profit, he took a bold step for conscious capitalism knowing it would negatively affect profits. Likewise Zuckerberg didn’t just not take an action that could have helped the world, he made a decision to generate more profits knowing it would be harmful.
But does anyone care? That’s the real question. In a world where evils like nuclear weapons, royalty, the Catholic Church, big tobacco, big oil, big Pharma, political lobbying, live organ harvesting in China, etc. have been traditionally routinely ignored and allowed to exist, it is hard to imagine that humanity’s good conscience is what’s going to stop Facebook from doing whatever it wants to despite how harmful it might be. But that may be the cynical viewpoint. Or the realistic one. One thing is certain though: Facebook exists for one reason only, to generate money. If it’s user base started to decline and it started losing money because people didn’t agree with its policies, it would change said policies overnight. I personally don’t enjoy Twitter but find it useful if not essential for certain things. Though I wholeheartedly respect and admire the company and it’s executive team. On the other hand i thoroughly enjoy Facebook and Insta as a user. Though I loathe the company and it’s executives. It’s tricky for all of us I’m sure. I would love to see us as a community collectively take FB down or force them to grow a conscience. Just thinking out loud.