The best-known faces of Facebook are staying out of the spotlight during its latest crisis.
Both Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have gone mum following revelations that users’ data were given without their consent to Cambridge Analytica and were used to fuel controversial political operations.
The crisis has deepened, with the hashtag #DeleteFacebook, reminiscent of the backlash to Uber, trending on Twitter.
The Daily Beast reported that Zuckerberg and Sandberg did not attend a recent internal town hall to explain the situation to employees.
“Mark, Sheryl and their teams are working around the clock to get all the facts and take the appropriate action moving forward, because they understand the seriousness of this issue. The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
Zuckerberg may be attempting to avoid making statements such as those he gave in the wake of the 2016 election.
The Daily Beast continued:
Throughout 2016 and 2017, Facebook has publicly diminished any role it played in the election. Zuckerberg said in the days immediately after the vote that it was “pretty crazy” to believe that “fake news on Facebook… influenced the election in any way.”
Then, in September, Facebook conceded that it had found 470 accounts that promoted roughly 3,000 paid ads pushing Russian propaganda. That propaganda’s reach from organic users – most of them unsuspecting Americans – has been substantial. Facebook in early October estimated the propaganda on its platform had reached ten million Americans. By the end of the month, that estimate was 126 million Americans. And within days of that estimate, it told Congress that the real total was 150 million Americans.
The executives’ silence has not gone unnoticed:
Front-running the stories along with the letters to newsrooms are but two of several ways Facebook failed to contain fallout from the Cambridge Analytica revelations. Silence on the part of Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg didn’t help. Nor did a report late Monday in the New York Times that Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos is leaving after clashing with other executives, including Sandberg, over how Facebook handled Russian disinformation campaigns. Facebook said Stamos is still at the company, but didn’t outright deny that he plans to leave.
“Most of its executives haven’t done a real interview in ages, let alone answer deep questions,” Zeynep Tufecki, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who specializes in social networks and democracy, wrote in a post on Twitter.
As for #DeleteFacebook, some ask whether that is a prudent move:
Considering everything we have learned about Facebook, are y’all thinking about deleting your accounts? I’ve had mine for >10 years, have used it as a kind of journal, and maintain lots of important relationships there. How are you feeling about this? #DeleteFacebook?
— Patti Mulligan ð¬âð½ (@chachina) March 21, 2018
Others say they’ve stopped using the platform and encourage others to do the same:
#deletefacebook I stopped personally using it seven years ago. I still have a fan page but I don’t directly manage it anymore. I get that it has been useful for many for a time but at this point the detriments outweigh its usefulness.
— reggie watts (@reggiewatts) March 21, 2018
I Deleted Facebook Five Years ago because I had both Facebook and Twitter at the same time and then realised I was enjoying Twitter more so Deleting Facebook was one of the Best things I done #DeleteFacebook
— â½â½CHELSEA FC #CFCâ½â½ (@GarinCFC1905) March 20, 2018
Even WhatsApp founder and Facebook-made millionaire Brian Acton says it’s time to stop using the platform:
It is time. #deletefacebook
— Brian Acton (@brianacton) March 20, 2018
Though some see Acton’s statement as self-contradicting, others believe it’s in keeping with his long-held views on privacy.
While some may say it’s hypocritical to reap millions from Facebook and then call for users to jump ship, Acton has always had a penchant for supporting privacy. Back in its earliest days, WhatsApp’s stated goal was to never make money from ads.
Facebook’s continued silence has allowed palace intrigue and journalists’ conjecture to take the place of Facebook’s message.
As the storm built over the weekend, Facebook’s executives, including Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, strategized and argued late into the night. They knew that the public was hammering them, but they also believed that the fault lay much more with Cambridge Analytica than with them. Still, there were four main questions that consumed them. How could they tighten up the system to make sure this didn’t happen again? What should they do about all the calls for Zuckerberg to testify? Should they sue Cambridge Analytica? And what could they do about psychologist Joseph Chancellor, who had helped found Kogan’s firm and who now worked, of all places, at Facebook?
How would you advise Facebook to address the issue, PR Daily readers?