Sunday, July 5, 2020

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(The Big Disrupt) Facebook: The Impossible Job – Why the boycott of facebook won’t be the last






The last two years has been (rightly) unforgiving for Facebook and with the recent ad boycott over the Menlo Park based company decision to keep president Donald Trump’s controversial post on its platform which heavily implied the use of force against protesters. The misery just keeps piling on. 

However, don’t feel sorry for the $665 billion juggernaut as this has been coming for a company that’s no stranger to controversy particularly over its policies regarding content moderation, privacy and hate speech. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t breaking a sweat as he knows as well as we do that the boycott will blow over once July breezes by because while advertisers theoretically hold the power of the purse, Facebook offer to much in scale and targeting for advertiser to ignore and more importantly.  

However, there’s a sneaking suspicion that Facebook maybe providing cover for its customers who were planning to cut ad spend anyway in lieu of the pandemic but one customer that won’t be cutting down their spending is one Donald Trump as he seeks to earn a second term.  

In any case, a month without a portion of their customers spending money on ads on their platform won’t hurt Facebook financially with the loss of income will likely be a rounding error on Facebook financial statement the next time they report their earnings. However, in their defense, Facebook have the unenviable task of moderating the comments, postings, musings of 2 billion people so expect mistakes to be made.  

Despite Facebook’s sizeable investment in AI research, the tools Facebook use to clean up its platform aren’t ready for prime time and with the pandemic pressuring companies into working remotely, Facebook’s AI tools to moderate content on its platform is going to suffer a baptism of fire.  

But much of this is Facebook’s fault. Facebook, like it or not, has for some time been a prominent marketplace of ideas and has for years fought off the responsibility that comes with it which has seen the platform fail spectacularly at addressing issues such as fake news and propaganda that publishers and newspapers have handled better at least in comparison to their technologically sophisticated counterparts. 

Much of the trouble Facebook finds itself in is because while it sees itself as a tech company simply serving personalized content to its users, its own users and wider public sees Facebook as what it increasingly is, a large but crowded marketplace where social progress or degradation is taking place in real time.  

However, its attempts to avoid acknowledging just how much power it has isn’t the real problem. For us, it’s easy argument that of all the members of FAANG, Facebook is the worst run of the bunch.  While the company is financially sound, recruits the best people, nurtures new talent and are more or less strong operationally, they’re extremely vulnerable in an area that can render these areas useless, morale.      

No matter how strong a company is at managing its finances, recruiting and developing talent, developing new products and features, acquiring and retaining customers or warding off competitors, if the company has low morale, every advantage in these areas will suffer and eventually wither away over time. 

Nothing kills a company faster than unhappy employees and Facebook over the last two years has waved to goodbye a number of key executives in amidst of damaging scandals, none more embarrassing than the Cambridge Analytica debacle. 

Even in Facebook’s own internal survey, employees were honest enough to report their discontent with approval for the direction of the company falling 19 points in a year. While other members in FAANG aren’t exactly hubs of worker bliss (they’re not), the difference between them and Facebook (with maybe the exception of Google) is that much of the discontent in their companies is among employees that are replaceable. 

There are a number of reasons why morale is ebbing at the company from the aforementioned scandals but the possibly the most striking is the leadership offered by founder, CEO and Chairman Zuckerberg. Founders are revered Silicon Valley but Zuckerberg’s entrenched power makes him and ultimately the company vulnerable to attacks that directly affects morale as the company looks less like a company chasing the noble goal to connect the world and more like an empire headed by a man who seems tone deaf by design.         
  
In sum, Facebook has many enemies this ad boycott most likely won’t be the last but as the public protestations of employees, lawsuits and former executives indicate, the problem that’s eating at facebook maybe closer to home.  
    

    

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