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Facebook: The Medium Is The Message

Apr. 10, 2018 4:17 PM ETMeta Platforms, Inc. (META)71 Comments


  • Facebook promised to bring people together and Facebook might very well have done that for many.
  • However, evidence is mounting that Facebook also is an ideal platform for tearing societies apart, especially for actors with bad intentions, of which there are plenty.
  • While existing legal possibilities on the platform already are very much geared to this, very lax data practices have added yet another layer to this destructive potential.
  • The lax policies and years of denial show either gross incompetence, or worse, especially of its CEO.
  • While Facebook is cleaning up its act only now, the damage has been done and cannot be undone.

Investors in Facebook (FB) are focused on today's hearings with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and understandably so. After all, Facebook has rewarded its shareholders immensely:

But with the Cambridge Analytica problem, the lax data protection policies and inadequate response to these problems (which were known more than two years ago), the company has come under mounting pressure.

This pressure isn't just from the political arena, but it has seeped into the stock market as the share price has come under pressure.

There's every chance that this pressure will subside though. After all, Facebook's business model is incredibly profitable, together with Google (GOOG) (GOOGL) it is responsible for nearly all the growth in the digital advertising market, where its position seems unassailable.

All it takes for Facebook to stop the rot in its share price is a combination of mea culpa and some rock-solid measures to protect the data of its users. We think that's possible. The EU is forcing companies in this space to do just that, and these practices could be applied worldwide.

So we do actually see the shares rebounding as these data policies are remedied. Is that the end of the story? Not necessarily. We think there more important elements in the Facebook story that could set it up for a bigger backlash in the future.

In our view, the focus on data protection is way too narrow. The problem with Facebook's goes way beyond the lax policies and data practices enabling the likes of Cambridge Analytica (and an unknown quantity of others) to appropriate its data for sinister purposes.

Facebook is a new media, and as such it is profoundly altering the nature of societal discourse, and the evidence is mounting that it's not for the better.

Media critic Neil Postman wrote a book in the 1980s

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