A scathing report and possible multi-billion dollar fines. Will they be enough to stop Mark Zuckerberg from ruining the world?
The Scathing Report
Here’s something that doesn’t happen every day. After a slow build, there was something of a Twitter frenzy on the feed of an MP over in the U.K. @DamianCollins announced his committee’s report on social media’s fake news and disinformation problem. The headline-making report calls on social media platforms to take responsibility and singles out Facebook’s leadership for acting like “Digital Gangsters”.
Gangster? Yes. Does it Matter? No.
In over 100 pages explaining now-familiar topics like the impact of fake news on democracy and the need for greater transparency and data protection, the report concludes by calling for more government oversight. Leaving us with “… only governments and the law are powerful enough to contain…” the likes of Facebook.
While that may be true, it certainly hasn’t stopped Zucky yet. In fact, flying in the face of the law seems to be a specialty of his. Collins himself acknowledges this, saying:
“Even if Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t believe he is accountable to the U.K. Parliament, he is to the billions of Facebook users across the world,”
But shaming the Facebook founder into compliance has never worked, either. His miserable track record with user privacy shows exactly what he thinks of the billions of Facebook users across the world.
No More Bubble & Squeak for Zucky?
The report may sound scathing in some contexts, but it’s nothing new. The truly juicy part isn’t even in the report at all, but rather Mr. Collins’ threat to forcibly get Zucky to testify should he ever set foot on British soil.
That centers on a series of internal emails bandied about in the C-Suite at Facebook and until recently kept private under seal in a California lawsuit. But in December, Damian Collins used Parliament’s “sergeant-at-arms” to forcibly gain access to the emails. What he found was that, in this correspondence, it becomes clear just how insidious Facebook’s playbook really is.
Using people’s data as rewards for “playing nice” with the social media platform, the company also “punished” companies who didn’t drink the Facebook Kool-Aid® and barred them from access to the valuable trove of rich user data.
Just more evidence that it’s all about profiting from data and to hell with the user, their privacy rights, the state of the internet and any form whatsoever of social responsibility or industry leadership.
Maybe a Multi-Billion Dollar Fine Will Do the Trick
Zucky may not think he’s accountable to the U.K. Parliament but he now has the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to answer to… and they might finally be showing enough teeth to make an impact on the social media giant.
And it’s going to take a lot of high-priced teeth to make an impact on Facebook’s balance sheet. 2018 brought record-breaking profits and a surging stock price despite scandal after scandal.
But there’s hope. The New York Times reported that Facebook and the FTC are in discussions over a settlement that could be even higher than Google’s $22.5 million fine for similar privacy infractions.
15 Years is Enough Now
Of course, Zuckerberg has been breaking promises and ignoring privacy laws since the start. If you go way back to the beginning, you’ll see that the law means nothing to Mark Zuckerberg.
Even before Facebook ever left the confines of Harvard Yard, back when it was called “The Facebook”, the then 19-year old angered college administrators by using students’ pictures without their permission. And he did this while developing The Facebook under the guise of working for ConnectU. ConnectU, by the way, claims they invented the idea and hired Zuckerberg to develop it. He stole the idea, then breached a contract he had with them to develop a social network, according to the lawsuit they eventually brought against him.
So Zuckerberg chose his pathway at the crossroads 15 years ago when he traded integrity and legality to become the two-faced flouter of the law we know him to be today.
Jab-Jab-Cross: We Need a 3-Part Attack
It’s clear that laws alone won’t work, even we had a global network of good ones in place to catch the likes of Zuckerberg. You could even say he’s perfected the art of riding above the law.
The moral-ethical argument will continue to fall on deaf ears with Zucky but at some point, there may be enough public pressure where enough people #deletefacebook and a rival social media platform can step in. Just please don’t let it be Google.
And it’s even questionable if fines will do the trick. In the last quarter of 2018, Facebook brought in $6.88 billion in net income. So unless those FTC fines are magnificently high, Zucky will roll right over them and keep going. He knows exactly how to use money to assuage any setbacks or inconveniences that may arise due to pesky intervention by the FCC, Congress, the EU, or other organizations that may try and pierce his wall of gangsterdom.
So let’s make it stick this time.
Fines that hurt and tough, globally-consistent oversight to make them stick. Maybe this will finally contain the Zuckerberg beast we’ve allowed to run rampant for 15 years and counting.
So, where does all this leave us?
- Rules don’t work on old Zucky.
- Moral arguments definitely fall on deaf ears with him… and always will, due to that crossroads deal he’s made with the devil.
- And fines haven’t yet made any impact at all.
Independent of one another, these three tactics haven’t done much at all yet. We’ll need a combination of all three approaches (a coordinated effort, where we all work in conjunction with one another) to tame the beast. A classic 1-1-2 punch combo and maybe we can finally throw him off balance until he finally tumbles, releasing his hold on the world’s personal data.