Many faithful Facebook users had the rug pulled out from under them during the last year. Both Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the U.S. Congress and spilled the beans on how the company had betrayed its members.
I don’t think the company’s leaders realized that Facebook was doing the wrong thing until recently. Now they have a five-point fix-it-plan. Will it work? And will it win back users’ trust?
Facebook COO Shery Sandberg discussed the five-point plan at the Digital Life Design Conference in Munich last week. She said Facebook’s executives understand the deep responsibilities they have, and that they need to stop the abuse more quickly. She acknowledged that they need to do a better job protecting user data.
Clarity Must Come First
While declaring that they now understand the issues sounds good, it really does not seem that Facebook’s leaders have a full picture in their sights — not yet anyway.
Unless and until they can widen the scope of their lens and see all the real and deep problems, these issues will continue to bite them, time-and-time again going forward.
Protecting user data is an important point. Protecting users from bad marketing is an important point. Protecting society from fake news and outsider influence is an important point. There are many more important points that need to be considered.
The real fix will come when Facebook executives understand all the issues. They must understand what the company is evolving into, and its place in the world, before it’s too late. If not, they will simply be treating the cough without curing the cold.
To clarify the current problems, it’s necessary to pull back the camera for a longer-term, historic perspective on Facebook, social media and societal evolution. That is the perspective every social media company should seek in order to be successful going forward.
Social media is growing as an industry, but for companies that fail to protect user data, the hammer will come down. They must prevent fake news, or the hammer will come down. They must exercise fairness instead of choosing political sides, or the hammer will come down.
If a social media company does not clean up its own act, trust and satisfaction will evaporate, and customers will walk away. Even if that doesn’t happen, the U.S. Congress will step in, set rules, and dictate the company’s future — that is something every firm wants to avoid.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has been conducting an investigation into Facebook and there has been speculation that it may consider imposing a record fine. Another hammer. This type of threat will continue to grow unless and until Facebook straightens up its act.
Five-Point Fix-It Plan
Facebook’s five-point plan, according to Sandberg:
- Investing in safety and security
- Protecting against election interference
- Cracking down on fake accounts and fake news
- Making sure people can control their own information
- Increasing transparency at the company
This plan is a great first step, but in order for transformation to occur, Facebook must take its place in the world seriously. It must protect all users, regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives. No side is always right or wrong.
Everyone’s personal and private information should stay private. Everyone’s posts must be treated equally — something that apparently has not been happening. Many of Facebook’s current list of problems could have been prevented.
Facebook must give its users the respect they deserve. Not doing so is abusive. As Facebook’s leaders now see, their past behavior has led to a significant and serious backlash that they now must address. Wouldn’t it have been better to have done things the right way from the start?
Sandberg said Facebook is more determined than ever to keep people safe. That is good. However, that is not enough. Facebook needs to understand its place in the world before it can fix everything that has gone wrong during the years of ignoring it.
Facebook created the problems it now must confront. I am happy to see that its senior executives appear to be taking this issue seriously. I want them to succeed. However, they must pull off the blinders and widen their vision. There are many different views in the world, and every one of them deserves the same level of respect, dignity and visibility. That’s a tall order for individuals, but that’s what it will take to right this ship.