At one time, you could hardly find anyone who wasn’t on Facebook, in the last few years though, things have changed. This is in no small part due to the controversies that have surrounded the site since it entered the mainstream. Last week in his testimony before the US Congress, Mark Zuckerberg faced questions about Facebook’s decision to allow political ads without fact-checking their accuracy, causing an outcry. 2015 saw another memorable scandal, when it was revealed that Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica access to millions of users’ data without their consent, which was then used for political advertisements. But, the controversies didn’t stop there.
One concerning fact is that Facebook pays almost no taxes worldwide. Using a scheme of shell companies and evasion tools, the company moves its revenue through foreign tax havens and into offshore accounts. The freely available figures show that in 2012 and 2013 Facebook paid zero tax in the UK, and only about £4,327 in 2014.
Earlier this year, the Verge reported on the working conditions of Facebook’s moderators, who review and filter offensive content. The job consists of prolonged exposure to graphic videos of murder, extremist content and child pornography amongst other gruesome content. This takes a heavy psychological toll on the moderators and has resulted in a lawsuit by a former employee who developed PTSD as a direct result of the content she was exposed to. In 2018, a content moderator suffered a heart attack on the job and later died in the hospital because the office didn’t have a defibrillator.
In 2017 a news website managed to use Facebook’s advertising algorithms to target ads at people whose interests included facebook-generated categories such as “Jew hater”. Even though these were later removed, how much the company can do about offensive content is still up in the air. In an audio recording leaked by The Verge, Zuckerberg himself said the company is “not going to eliminate it completely.”
Offensive content was a factor in the demise of Myspace. The heavily mediatized investigation by American courts into how the site’s underage users were allegedly exposed to pornography was a blow to its reputation. Myspace was thought of as seedy as opposed to the forward-looking Facebook at the time, which is what partly contributed to the migration of its users to Facebook, leading to Myspace’s eventual fall into obscurity.But Facebook is much more ingrained into the global culture than Myspace ever was, attracting more people and brands. It’s used by companies for anything from networking, to finding new talent – and the site has almost 3 billion active monthly users. Not even a scandal as big as Cambridge Analytica fiasco was enough to dissuade people from using the site, it’s hardly possible that any of the other numerous data leaks or offensive content will. Facebook is projected to earn more than 70 billion dollars in revenue this year, and if that’s what the future looks like, it’s likely to stay.