By Justin Sanders

How the world has changed since we last updated our chronological compendium of Facebook’s harmful misdeeds. Since the beginning of March, a novel virus has circled the globe, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and forcing most of us to shelter in place. With the global economy at a standstill and more than 40 million people unemployed in the United States alone, the death of George Floyd has upended society further, sparking civil unrest and a painful reckoning with our nation’s history of race and police brutality.

The scope of our current crises is simply overwhelming. We have watched the brave front-line workers battling the virus and delivering essential services, feeling admiration for their bravery and horror over the risks they’ve willingly assumed. We have witnessed the deep pain of oppressed communities manifest in violence and mayhem, and we have grappled with all of it against the steady, unrelenting drumbeat of concern for the safety of ourselves and our loved ones.

During this chaotic time, we have relied upon technology more than ever to stay connected, to continue living our lives as best we can, and to monitor the events of the world. We are genuinely grateful for the ability to find news and information, connect with our colleagues, friends, and relatives on video conferences, and have our groceries and meals delivered with convenient mobile apps.

For these reasons, it might feel like the time to pause and appreciate the companies that we have criticized for so long, perhaps see them in a new and more virtuous light. We thought twice about publishing new entries on a timeline that is intended to be critical of Facebook, at this particular moment.

But we concluded, as have our elected representatives, that this is the time for continued scrutiny of the big platform companies. For all the good that their technology has helped to deliver during this pandemic, we’ve seen more and more examples of the harms it causes to society, particularly when the big platform companies abdicate their responsibilities.

As we’ve seen, Facebook has been awash with dangerous COVID-19 misinformation – precisely at a time when people are looking to these platforms for life-saving facts. And Facebook continues to amplify hateful vitriol from users ranging from elected officials to white supremacist groups, and it continues to be a vessel for the erosion of trust in elections, science, and common sense.

The fact that we have permitted Facebook to avoid accountability since its creation is what allowed it to grow into a colossus that can seemingly get away with anything – and continue to rake in staggering profits, no matter the societal fallout. The record of irresponsibility continues to grow. And the need for change is greater than ever.

So, please read the latest updates below, the latest entries in our Facebook Timeline of Scandal and Strife

Jump to conclusion

TIMELINE UPDATES

March 9, 2020  

Australia Sues Facebook Over Cambridge Analytica

It has been almost two years since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and Facebook is still feeling the fallout. Today, Fortune reports that the privacy regulator for Australia is suing Facebook for exposing the personal data of more than 300,000 users “to the risk of being used for political profiling” by the consulting firm. “We consider the design of the Facebook platform meant that users were unable to exercise reasonable choice and control about how their personal information was disclosed,” said Australian Information Commissioner Angelene Falk, in a statement.

March 21, 2020  

Facebook Was Inflating Its Ad Metrics and Its Employees Knew It 

Two years ago, a class-action lawsuit accused Facebook of inflating its “potential reach” metrics in order to woo more advertisers. Today, the complaint is amended to show that Facebook’s own employees were aware of the overestimation of reach and had expressed serious concerns. “This is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” wrote one Facebook product manager to their colleagues as far back as October 2018. Yup, they called it.

March 28, 2020

Facebook’s Policies Don’t Apply to Posts Proposing COVID-19 Infection Parties

Earlier this week, an article in The Federalist by an unlicensed dermatologist argued that Americans should throw coronavirus infection “parties” as a way to establish “herd immunity” and save the economy. Today, a Facebook spokesperson tells HuffPost that a post sharing that article does not violate its explicit prohibition of coronavirus-related misinformation “that could contribute to imminent physical harm.” The spokesperson declined to explain, HuffPost reports, “how a post proposing readers deliberately contract a virus that has rapidly killed tens of thousands of people does not meet that standard.” Anyone want to try to defend Facebook’s position? We didn’t think so.

April 7, 2020 

Facebook’s Ad Review System Fails to Spot Virus Harms

In the midst of a global pandemic, misinformation on Facebook is a matter of life or death – and the company is failing miserably at stopping it. Today, Consumer Reports chronicles a test in which they put forth a series of seven paid ads that made claims such as “Coronavirus is a HOAX” and claiming that people can “stay healthy with SMALL daily doses” of bleach. Guess what? Facebook approved every one of them… and took the money. “Had I published my test ads, Facebook probably would have found and removed them eventually,” writes the study’s dumbfounded author. “But it’s impossible to know how far the ads would have spread first—or how much damage they would have done.”

April 16, 2020 

Study Finds Debunked COVID-19 Facebook Claims Linger for Up To 22 Days

At the start of pandemic, the World Health Organization warned that “fake news spreads faster and more easily than the virus, and it is just as dangerous.” Here’s proof. Today, a study from Avaaz reveals it can take up to 22 days for Facebook to downgrade content labeled as harmful misinformation, “giving ample time for it to go viral.” In just the small sampling analyzed by Avaaz, the group found pieces of misleading and false content that were shared “over 1.7 million times on Facebook, and viewed an estimated 117 million times.”

April 22, 20

Facebook No.1 in Big Tech Lobbying

From fighting antitrust investigations to beating back encryption legislation that would help rein in child exploitation, Facebook has its hands full on the policy front – and is spending accordingly. Today, CNBC reports that Facebook led all Big Tech lobbying in the first quarter of 2020, spending $5.3 million to manipulate minds in the halls of government. Now if only they’d spent some of that money on solving the problems they’ve created rather than defending them.

May 13, 2020

Facebook Shells Out $52 Million to Workers With PTSD

Today, NPR reports that Facebook agreed, in a legal settlement, to provide $1,000-dollar cash payments to its more than 10,000 content moderators “who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.” And those diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work sifting through “child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide,” and other horrors, will be eligible for additional payments up to $50,000. “Facebook admitted no wrongdoing as a part of the settlement,” NPR continued.

May 22, 2020 

White Supremacist Groups Are Thriving on Facebook

Today, a report released by Campaign for Accountability’s Tech Transparency Project found that “dozens of white supremacist groups are operating freely on Facebook, allowing them to spread their message and recruit new members.” Searching Facebook for 221 white supremacist organizations that have been designated as hate groups, Campaign for Accountability found that 113 of them – more than half – had a presence on the platform. The findings run directly counter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 claim that, “We do not allow hate groups on Facebook, overall”. Well, Mark, “overall” there’s still a lot of hate being allowed on your platform.

June 1, 2020 

New Content Oversight Board In Need of Oversight

A much-touted Oversight Board tasked with making some of Facebook’s toughest content decisions gets off to a rough start today – with Axios reporting on one of its white members’ use of the N-word in front of his students. Board Co-chair Michael McConnell, a Stanford law professor, uttered the slur while reading aloud a quote attributed to Patrick Henry during a discussion of how racism and slavery impacted the writing of the Constitution.

June 2, 2020

Facebook Refuses to Act on Presidential Post Inciting Violence

Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doubles down on his company’s decision to let stand a post from President Trump that reads, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in reference to the ongoing protests in the US against racism and police brutality. The company’s handling of the post, reports Vox, “has divided employees at Facebook and prompted them to openly criticize Zuckerberg in a way they never have before.” 

June 9, 2020

Advertisers Drop Facebook in Wake of Protests, Trump Posts

By refusing to take action on controversial posts, including those from President Trump, Facebook has lost credibility, staff members, and now, as The New York Times today reports, it is losing advertisers as well. “The current developments have now rendered it morally impossible for us to continue feeding the same hand that complacently offers its services as the major platform for hate-mongering, promotion of violence, and disinformation,” said one advertiser. Facebook receives 98% of its revenue from ads – will advertiser disgust at the platform ever generate enough economic pain for Facebook to change its ways?

June 9, 2020

Facebook Makes 300,000 Content Moderation Mistakes Every Day

A study from NYU Stern shows that Facebook makes 300,000 content moderation mistakes every day. So just as Facebook is allowing way too many harmful posts to slip through, it’s flagging or deleting as many, if not more, legitimate posts. Consider Facebook’s content moderation math: it has 15,000 poorly paid (and often traumatized – see May 13, 2020 above) moderators trying to review three million posts – which works out to about 200 posts per person, per day, or about 25 per hour across a standard, eight-hour shift. “That’s under 150 seconds to decide if a post meets or violates community standards,” writes Forbes, whether the post is a simple image file or a 10-minute video.

FULL TIMELINE

March 17, 2018

Cambridge Analytica 

The Big Bang. Facebook has had their fair share of crises. But nothing – not even enabling abuse by a foreign power so pervasive that it may have swung an election – could ever put a dent in the company’s meteoric ascent… until now. On this day, a bombshell expose of Facebook’s involvement with an “upstart voter-profiling company” called Cambridge Analytica was published, and the online universe was forever changed.

Aiming to influence the behavior of American voters like never before, the British firm utilized a Russian-built app to harvest the private information of more than 50 million Facebook users without their consent. Facebook knew about Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting for years, yet never felt the need to disclose what it knew to the general public, or apparently the government or anyone else.

CreativeFuture had been ringing the alarm bells for months at this point – but the Cambridge Analytica scandal made millions of people, across all industries, recognize that Facebook’s behavior was out of control. 

The Cambridge Analytica story caused Facebook to lose $120 billion in stock market value in a single day, put Facebook in the spotlight of regulators around the world, and led to a precipitous decline in user trust. After years of fawning coverage by the press, something suddenly and significantly changed, as journalists started to seriously scrutinize the social network, uncovering tale after tale of questionable business practices fueled by a grow-at-any-cost mentality.

March 21, 2018

WhatsApp Founder #DeletesFacebook

In the wake of Cambridge Analytica, the growing “delete Facebook” movement garners one of its most damning members: WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton, who left his position with the messaging service over a year earlier. In 2014, WhatsApp became one of Facebook’s most important acquisitions, and has since more than tripled its user base to 1.5 billion worldwide. But today, Acton expresses his disgust and tweets, “It is time. #deletefacebook.”

April 4, 2018

Oops… Actually, it Was 87 Million

Hey, remember just a couple of paragraphs ago when Facebook told everyone that Cambridge Analytica had information on around 50 million users? Today, Mark Zuckerberg tells reporters that figure is actually, probably closer to, oh, 87 million users. You know, only about 40 million more than the original disclosure. “I’m quite confident, given our analysis, that it is not more than 87 [million],” Zuckerberg adds. Well – consider us reassured.

April 10-11, 2018

Zuck Amuck on Capitol Hill

Washington finally gets Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to come to Capitol Hill for two days of grilling on the Cambridge Analytica incident. Questioned by both the Senate and the House in separate hearings, Zuckerberg remains chillingly cool and collected as he takes questions on topics ranging from regulation, to content moderation, to the future of artificial intelligence. His tone – respectful, self-admonishing, yet entirely confident in Facebook’s ability to fix what ails them – is right out of the company’s PR playbook, setting a discomfortingly nonchalant tone for what’s to come.

May 10, 2018

The Russian Invasion

Even as the Mueller investigation of Russian involvement in our elections continues, there was much more blatant Russian meddling occurring right out in the open – across the vast, endlessly exploitable expanse that is Facebook. Today, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee publish more than 3,500 ads from Facebook and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) linked to the “Internet Research Group,” a sinister Russian propaganda network.

Designed to divide Americans through targeted misinformation campaigns, the ads took on topics such as Black Lives Matter, immigration, Islam, and guns, disguising themselves through phony events, fake news stories, or provocative memes. “They tear at the parts of the American social fabric that are already worn thin,” writes Wired, “stoking outrage about police brutality or the removal of Confederate statues.” Ah, outrage… the rotten beating heart of the Facebook business model.

June 3, 2018

Dirty Data Deals with Device Makers

Fresh on the heels of Cambridge Analytica, Facebook finds itself facing another data scandal, with the Times reporting today that the company allowed phone and device makers access to its users’ personal information. “It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said former FTC chief technologist Ashkan Soltani. 

July 4, 2018

Lynchings in India

As Americans spend the day celebrating their hard-won freedoms in the United States, Facebook continues to show the perils of its “free” business model in other countries. Namely, in India, where Facebook’s shiny, $16 billion toy, WhatsApp, has come under fire for helping spread misinformation leading to brutal killings. In most cases, innocent bystanders were beaten to death by mobs fueled by rumors of child kidnappings, organ harvesting rings, and other lies spread on WhatsApp. “The abuse of [platforms] like WhatsApp for repeated circulation of such provocative content are equally a matter of deep concern,” said India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in a statement, adding that the messaging service could not “evade accountability” for its role in the proceedings. 

July 11, 2018

Cambridge Analytica Deemed Criminal

Had you forgotten about Cambridge Analytica already? Well, Britain sure hasn’t – today the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office announces that, in failing to tell tens of millions of people how Cambridge Analytica harvested their information for use in political campaigns, Facebook broke British law. They fine the company a whopping £500,000, which Zuck could probably find between his couch cushions. But, it’s not so much the payout as it is the precedent – in this ruling, the UK signals to the world that the extent to which Facebook failed to safeguard its users wasn’t just callous – it was illegal.

August 6, 2018

The Alex Jones Massacre

This one’s really embarrassing. After happily hosting the accounts of InfoWars founder and notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for yearsFacebook finally deems it appropriate to ban the man who used his popularity to aggressively frame the Sandy Hook shootings as “completely fake” and publicly vilify the families of its victims, among other crimes against humanity. After an incident in which Jones, with no evidence whatsoever, refers to Robert Mueller as a pedophile on his show, then threatens the Russia investigation special counsel with violence, Facebook decides that enough is enough. 

Of course, we all know that Jones has been spewing such vitriol for some time, so why now? Only after increased public pressure forced other companies to ban Alex Jones did Facebook finally decide to stop taking the ad revenue he generates. They ban this racist hate-monger because he has become bad for business – not because it’s the right thing to do.

August 22, 2018

Pissing Off Apple, Part I

“If you were on the edge of your seat wondering what Facebook’s next major consumer privacy headache would be, the wait is over,” begins today’s TechCrunch story about Onavo Protect. The Facebook-owned app provided data insights that led Facebook to, among other things, purchase WhatsApp for $19 billion. It also, we learn today, was banned from the Apple App Store

Why? Here’s Apple’s own explanation: “With the latest update to our guidelines, we made it explicitly clear that apps should not collect information about which other apps are installed on a user’s device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing, and must make it clear what user data will be collected and how it will be used.” Will a slap on the wrist from Apple be enough to force Facebook to clean up its act? If you’re still on the edge of your seat, you really haven’t been paying attention.

August 27, 2018

Too Little, Too Late in Myanmar

After years of helping foment ethnic and religious tensions that led to serious human rights abuses in Myanmar, Facebook finally admits that maybe, just maybe it was “too slow” in preventing the spread of “hate and misinformation” against Rohingya Muslims in the troubled nation. It also bans 20 organizations and individuals guilty of some of the worst offenses in question. It was a U.N. call for Myanmar military leaders to be charged with genocide and other crimes against humanity that finally spurred Facebook into action. The takeaway: Don’t worry, if the use of its platform puts an entire race of people in danger, Facebook will totally hire a few extra content moderators in your country.

September 28, 2018

Hackers “View As” Much User Data as They Can

Another day, another data breach – as Facebook admits to a cyberattack that exposed the information of nearly 50 million of its users. It’s all good, though – the company would later downgrade this number to a mere 30 million people whose accounts might have been taken over by hackers via the platform’s “View As” feature – a tool that allows users to see their own page as someone else would. “We need to do more to prevent this from happening in the first place,” says Mark Zuckerberg in a follow-up call with reporters, to which everyone responded by writing “no s**t” in their little notepads.

November 14, 2018

Profits Over People: The Story of Facebook

Yet another riveting New York Times expose unveils Facebook’s sustained efforts to “delay, deny, and deflect” warning signs of hate speech, bullying, and other toxic content on its platform. Focused on how “bent on growth” Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg really were, the story details some astonishingly cynical measures the pair took to keep Facebook’s problems under wraps, and to warp public sentiment regarding its business practices. These included minimizing the company’s role in Russia’s election meddling even after their own internal investigations showed clear signs of it, and working with a conservative PR firm to attack critics of Facebook – including billionaire George Soros – in far-right media outlets.

December 14, 2018

Millions of Private Photos Exposed

First, it was 87 million Facebook users whose privacy was compromised. Then, another 50 million. So, it almost seems anticlimactic when it is discovered that 6.8 million more Facebook users had their personal information violated by the social network. But even though exposing the private photos of millions of people to third-party apps is still a travesty, the biggest deal about today’s revelation is that, in the wake of the previous two privacy disasters, this one hardly registers at all.

January 29, 2019

Pissing Off Apple, Part II

Today, Facebook causes another problem with Apple via their Research app, which paid teenagers to let the social media giant surveil all of their phone and web activity – 1984 style. Hey, remember how on August 22 Facebook tried something like this once before, with their Onavo Protect app, and then Apple banned it? Well, this time around, Facebook just sidestepped all those pesky App Store restrictions regarding privacy and other annoying things, “purposefully avoiding TestFlight, Apple’s official beta testing system,” writes TechCrunch. That’s a big no-no at Apple, not to mention a sign of Facebook’s increasingly desperate measures to cater to the youth demographic that is leaving Facebook in droves. 

March 4, 2019

User Contact Info Stolen, Shared

We wouldn’t blame you if you forgot about this one, but it’s worth remembering. Today, Facebook is accused of failing to let its users opt out of a feature that lets other people look them up using their phone number and email address. This includes users who would never in a million years add their number to a social media platform, but did so anyway because they were led to believe it was necessary to set up the site’s much-touted two-factor authentication security option. Even while pretending to protect your security, Facebook finds a way to blow it up again.

March 13, 2019

Dirty Data Deals Deemed Criminal

Those darn dirty data deals from December 18 just keep coming back to haunt Facebook. (So it goes when you play fast and loose with the personal information of a 2-billion-person user base who thought they could trust you.) Besides being on the hook for what could be a multi-billion-dollar fine from the FTC, today the Times reports that Facebook is now under criminal investigation by a New York grand jury for business practices that, to put it lightly, “deceived consumers.” So, what do you do when your favorite social media platform is considered a literal criminal in the eyes of the law? Well, if you’re the average Facebook user, turns out you… don’t do squat? Sigh. What is wrong with us??

March 14, 2019

Two Top Execs Peace Out

Mere weeks after laying out plans to become a more “privacy-focused” social network (says the social network that has privacy violations in its DNA), Facebook loses two more top executives. One of them, Chris Daniels, was in charge of the company’s 1.5 billion-user chat colossus, WhatsApp. No biggie. But the other guy, Chris Cox, was instrumental in the creation of News Feed, Facebook’s signature personalized update engine/fomenter of fake news. Reportedly, both men were unhappy with their employer’s revamped approach to personal data and encryption – a rumor Cox substantiates with an internal goodbye memo containing what could go down as one of history’s most passive-aggressive jabs: “This will be a big project and [Facebook] will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through.” Question: if the guy described as Zuckerberg’s “right hand man” isn’t excited about where things are going at this point… who will be?

March 15, 2019

Mass Shooter Films Himself, Goes Viral

Facebook’s bottomless cesspool of harmful content reaches staggering new depths when a New Zealand shooter films himself massacring dozens of mosque worshipers – and his horrific livestream goes viral. This tragedy comes after months of reassurances from Zuckerberg that his company is 1) “doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening,” and  2) “building A.I. tools … to identify and root out most of this harmful content.” Following today’s debacle, allow us to respond to such claims with a highly nuanced, point-by-point breakdown: 1) Clearly, you’re not, and 2) We’ll believe it when we see it.

March 21, 2019

Instagram Passwords Exposed on Company Server

In a blog post, Facebook fesses up that the supposedly encrypted passwords of “tens of thousands” of its Instagram users were stored on its servers in a “readable format.” But, fear not! The passwords were “never visible to anyone outside of Facebook.” Well, good then – we guess?

April 3, 2019

User Records Exposed… Sigh… Again

Some enterprising cybersecurity researchers discover that hundreds of millions of Facebook user records had been exposed to the public. Comments, likes, reactions, account names – you name it, it was available for download to literally anyone with a little technological know-how. Once again, this egregious data breach was caused by Facebook’s eagerness to let third-party app developers integrate seamlessly with its platform. Once again, it’s clear that Facebook has “no way of guaranteeing the safe storage of the data of their end users if they are going to allow app developers to harvest it in mass,” said one of the researchers.

April 16, 2019

Dirty Data Deals Even Dirtier than First Thought

Leaked company documents show that, in between heartfelt pledges to protect user data at all costs, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was aggressively handing over that very same data to other companies in private. Drawing from more than 4,000 pages of emails, webchats, spreadsheets, and other internal communications, a damning NBC News report shows that Facebook enjoyed rewarding favored partners with data access while denying it to other companies it viewed as competitors.

They also discussed selling access to the data for years, despite Zuckerberg’s adamant and repeated claims to the contrary in front of Congress. “One of the most striking threads to emerge from the documents is the way that Facebook user data was horse-traded to squeeze money… from app developers,” writes NBC News. It all prompted one Facebook employee to gift the world with the understatement of the year: “It’s sort of unethical.”

April 17, 2019

Email Contact Lists Stolen En Masse

Facebook admits to having collected, without permission and apparently without even realizing it, the email contact lists of 1.5 million users over the last two years. But even if the company doing the collecting claims it didn’t realize it was happening, maybe we should have gotten suspicious when Facebook started forcing certain new users to enter their email passwords to verify their identities? (Note to self: Don’t share your email password with anyone – not your mom, not your friends, and definitely not a social media behemoth with a history of flagrant privacy violations!) 

April 18, 2019

Instagram Password Leak Statistic Gets a Shameful Revision

Hey, remember all those Instagram passwords that were made visible back on March 21? Well today, Facebook makes a slight tweak to its original post about that little dilemma. Turns out its initial figure of “tens of thousands” of users affected by the leak actually should have read… “millions.” You know, just a statistical difference of… oh, a few extra zeroes!! And no, we’re not suspicious at all that it took their allegedly top-notch security team weeks to notice the discrepancy (sarcasm alert). And yes, sneaking a line about the snafu into a month-old blog post seems like a super-efficient way to inform the public about it (double-sarcasm alert). After years of frantically covering their own ass, today’s fresh scandal might be most notable for Facebook’s shady PR response. It appears they’ve given up on even trying to be straightforward about how awful they are.

April 25, 2019

New York Attorney General Investigates Facebook

Today, New York’s Attorney General Letitia James wrote each of Facebook’s dozens of data breaches onto its own piece of scrap paper, put all the scraps in a hat, and pulled the company’s April 17 scraping of 1.5 million user email contacts out at random. The point is, it’s unclear why this particular snafu is what finally compelled her to open an investigation into the company’s repeated “lack of respect for consumers’ information,” but we’ll take it. “It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers’ personal information,” James said in a statement. We’ll take that, too – even though we could have told you the same thing years ago.

May 9, 2019 

Facebook Co-Founder Calls for Facebook Break-Up

Another day, another former high-level Facebook executive calling for breaking the company up (now if only someone from within the company would make the call). It doesn’t get much higher than this one, though: Mark Zuckerberg’s former partner in moving fast and breaking things, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. “Mark is a good, kind person,” Hughes writes in a blistering New York Times op-ed. “But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks.” Sounds like he’s really taking this personally – but hey, imagine if your best friend betrayed the thing you made together, and it affected the lives of 1.5 billion people. You’d be pretty angry, too.

June 25, 2019

Facebook Embraces Criminality on its Platform

Illegal drug sales. Prostitution. Sex trafficking. Endangered animal trafficking. The trading of… human remains ranging from “Tibetan skull caps to babies in jars”!? Wow. The Dark Web is truly a twisted and distur… —wait, that’s Facebook that Morning Consult is talking about in today’s op-ed? And what’s that? It contains 1.5 million listings for illegal drug sales alone, which is six times more than the vile Dark Web platform, Silk Road? Well, we wish we could say we’re surprised, but by now we’re just, sadly, not. One detail, however, does scare us anew in this scathing piece: “[Zuckerberg’s] announcement at F8 that he plans to shift the platform design to focus on groups, and Facebook’s plan to launch a cryptocurrency, are downright alarming… the changes will make it harder for authorities and civil society groups to track and counter illegal activity on the platform.” Just what we need – more obstacles to holding Facebook accountable.

July 12, 2019

Facebook Fined $5 Billion

Let it be known that on this, the twelfth day of July in the year 2019, the social media giant known as Facebook became the proud owner of the largest fine ever dished out by the Federal Trade Commission. Is $5 billion a large enough punishment for a platform that, somehow, despite egregious abuses of customer data and the perpetual fomentation of division and hatred, is still worth hundreds of billions of dollars? Not nearly – but it signals, as The New York Times today reports, “a newly aggressive stance by regulators toward the country’s most powerful technology companies.” We’ll take what we can get, and keep our fingers crossed that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

September 5, 2019

(Bad) Luck of the Irish – Facebook Leaks 400 Million Records in Ireland

Today, we learn about Facebook’s 400 millionth data breach… er, that is, we learn about 400 million Facebook user records leaked in one data breach. Really, the statistic could go either way at this point, as yet anotheregregious abuse of personal information gets added to Facebook’s miles-long tally. Sadly, the sheer number of these things is starting to work in the company’s favor, as you had probably already forgotten about this one, if you ever knew about it at all. But, hundreds of millions of users is a lot of people. Fun twist: under its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Europe now shells out big fines for stuff like this, so this one could come back to haunt Facebook in a major way.

October 1, 2019

Leaked Zuckerberg Comments Point to Inner Turmoil

To be on Facebook is to risk having your personal information leaked. This is a fact that the company has proven too many times to count. But today, the tables turn, as The Verge publishes a leaked, unfiltered transcript from supreme ruler Mark Zuckerberg, speaking with his employees at two town hall meetings in July. We’re struck not so much by the content of these private admissions (though Zuck’s huffy comments about presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren’s plans to break up big tech certainly betray an alarming level of insecurity and hostility) as by what they reveal about Facebook’s soul: they tell us that “the people inside Facebook feel under siege and uncomfortable about the world around them,” one Harvard professor told CNET. Or, in other words – this rotten company is rotting from the inside.

October 8, 2019

40 States Join Facebook Antitrust Probe Party

Not to be outdone by Google, Facebook has been the target of a states-sponsored antitrust investigation for some time now. But what started as a little soiree with just eight states in attendance, today swells to a full-on rave as a total of 40 states announce plans to take part in the New York-led probe. Even so, Facebook has a little more catching up to do – Google’s probe party has 50 state attorneys general on board. Pretty pathetic there, Facebook! But don’t worry – you’ll still get the brunt of the antitrust crackdown in the end

October 12, 2019

Fake Ad Flogs Facebook’s Fiasco of a Factchecking Policy

“Breaking news: Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook just endorsed Donald Trump for re-election.” Don’t believe it? Well, you shouldn’t – it’s not true. But, this fake headline sure makes it seem like it is, and that’s the whole point. Dropped onto the platform today by presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, the sponsored post attacks Facebook’s lax policy around political ads with known lies in them – by targeting Facebook themselves with a lying ad. It’s hard to think of a cleverer way to expose the company’s transformation into, as Warren herself put it, a “disinformation-for-profit machine.”

October 23, 2019

Zuck-Bucks Out of Luck on Capitol Hill

“Zuck-bucks” is our nickname for Facebook’s beleaguered cryptocurrency project, Libra. This terrible plan from a company that has lost America’s trust got hammered today on Capitol Hill, as enraged lawmakers lined up to give none other than Zuckerberg himself the what-for at a hearing assessing the project. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) put it best when she told the CEO, “Libra is Facebook, and Facebook is you… You’ve proven we cannot trust you with our emails, with our phone numbers, so why should we trust you with our hard-earned money?” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves!

October 31, 2019

Facebook Finally All Things to All People, Including Slave Traders

You know you’re having a bad year when the world discovers that your photo app with more than a billion monthly active users enables a thriving slave market. Today, a hard-hitting BBC News Arabic report finds that “domestic workers are being illegally bought and sold online in a booming black market” on Facebook’s Instagram app. (And it turns out that listings for slaves have also been promoted in apps “approved and provided by Google Play”.) We knew Quality Control was not these tech companies’ strong suit, but COME ON! At this point, it’s just getting surreal.

November 6, 2019

Facebook Sued by Their Own State

Okay, here’s how you really know you’re having a bad year: You’re one of the most successful companies in an area of the country – Silicon Valley – that generates massive revenues for the state where it resides. For years, you helped make this state a shining beacon of progress and innovation and wealth, admired around the world. And today, none of it matters. Because now things have gotten so bad that Facebook’s home state of California has sued the company for “failing to comply with lawful subpoenas requesting information about its privacy practices.” 

November 25, 2019

Facebook Hit with Data Scandal No. Eleventy-Billion

We had no choice but to invent an entirely new number to account for Facebook’s unfathomably huge pile of data scandals. And it keeps growing. Today’s news involves a “software development kit” from Facebook called One Audience that gave third-party developers improper access to users’ personal data such as email addresses and usernames. Privacy? At this point, who cares?

December 9, 2019

Facebook’s Fact-Checking Failures Are Bad for Your Health

Let’s add a new Facebook harm to the list: they may be making us physically sicker. It turns out the company’s abject failure to keep misinformation off their platform is actively “harming public health,” reports The Washington PostTurns out that misleading ads on Facebook about medication meant to prevent the transmission of HIV are scaring patients away from taking the preventative drugs they need. The tech giant’s refusal to remove the content, say lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocates, has created nothing less than a “public-health crisis.”

December 19, 2019

267 Million Phone Numbers Exposed

Remember when an event where Facebook exposed millions of people’s records seemed inconceivable? Did you ever think it would become routine? Well, shockingly, it has. Facebook exposed 267 million phone numbers? Meh… that’s just today’s scandal. We’re very tired.

January 9, 2020

Facebook Can’t Stop Won’t Stop… Letting Politicians Lie in Ads

Pop quiz: You’re a global internet giant who has lost the trust of pretty much everyone because you can’t (won’t?) curb misinformation on your platform. But now you have the opportunity to earn back some of that trust by reducing the spread of misinformation on your platform by politicians. So, what do you do? Why, just the opposite, of course! Today, Facebook announces that they will do nothing to limit the targeting of voters by politicians spreading misinformation. Paired with the previous announcement that they also will be exempting political ads from third-party fact-checking, and Facebook has now notched two BIG strikes against the pillars of democracy.

January 11, 2020

Skilled Workers Embarrassed to Apply at Facebook

All this scandal and strife, as horrible and embarrassing as it is, doesn’t seem to have slowed Facebook’s growth. But here’s something that might: The New York Times reports that tech companies have lost their status as “every student’s dream workplace”. These bad reputations are finally starting to catch up with them.

January 28, 2020

DOJ Pulls Facebook’s Enemies into Antitrust Probe

It’s been relatively quiet on the antitrust front in recent weeks, but now comes news that one of the probe’s major players, the U.S. Department of Justice, has been setting up interviews with Facebook rivals – looking for insight into “the competitive landscape of the industry, along with their perspectives on and relationship to Facebook.” Just guessing, but we think the feds will hear something like this: “They’re ruthless and rotten to the core – break ‘em up!”

January 31, 2020

At Last, Facebook Embraces True Purpose – ‘To Piss Off a Lot of People’

Today, from the CEO who recently said “my goal… isn’t to be liked, but to be understood,” comes a brand-new statement of total indifference to the human race. “This is the new approach, and I think it’s going to piss off a lot of people,” Mark Zuckerberg told a crowd at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Utah. He was referring to Facebook’s claim that it will stand up for “free expression” and for encryption, damn the consequences for civilization.But not to worry, Mark – you’ve been pissing people off for years, starting with us.

March 9, 2020

Australia Sues Facebook Over Cambridge Analytica

It has been almost two years since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and Facebook is still feeling the fallout. Today, Fortune reports that the privacy regulator for Australia is suing Facebook for exposing the personal data of more than 300,000 users “to the risk of being used for political profiling” by the consulting firm. “We consider the design of the Facebook platform meant that users were unable to exercise reasonable choice and control about how their personal information was disclosed,” said Australian Information Commissioner Angelene Falk, in a statement.

March 21, 2020

Facebook Was Inflating Its Ad Metrics and Its Employees Knew It 

Two years ago, a class-action lawsuit accused Facebook of inflating its “potential reach” metrics in order to woo more advertisers. Today, the complaint is amended to show that Facebook’s own employees were aware of the overestimation of reach and had expressed serious concerns. “This is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” wrote one Facebook product manager to their colleagues as far back as October 2018. Yup, they called it.

March 28, 2020

Facebook’s Policies Don’t Apply to Posts Proposing COVID-19 Infection Parties

Earlier this week, an article in The Federalist by an unlicensed dermatologist argued that Americans should throw coronavirus infection “parties” as a way to establish “herd immunity” and save the economy. Today, a Facebook spokesperson tells HuffPost that a post sharing that article does not violate its explicit prohibition of coronavirus-related misinformation “that could contribute to imminent physical harm.” The spokesperson declined to explain, HuffPost reports, “how a post proposing readers deliberately contract a virus that has rapidly killed tens of thousands of people does not meet that standard.” Anyone want to try to defend Facebook’s position? We didn’t think so.

April 7, 2020

Facebook’s Ad Review System Fails to Spot Virus Harms

In the midst of a global pandemic, misinformation on Facebook is a matter of life or death – and the company is failing miserably at stopping it. Today, Consumer Reports chronicles a test in which they put forth a series of seven paid ads that made claims such as “Coronavirus is a HOAX” and claiming that people can “stay healthy with SMALL daily doses” of bleach. Guess what? Facebook approved every one of them… and took the money. “Had I published my test ads, Facebook probably would have found and removed them eventually,” writes the study’s dumbfounded author. “But it’s impossible to know how far the ads would have spread first—or how much damage they would have done.”

April 16, 2020

Study Finds Debunked COVID-19 Facebook Claims Linger for Up To 22 Days

At the start of pandemic, the World Health Organization warned that “fake news spreads faster and more easily than the virus, and it is just as dangerous.” Here’s proof. Today, a study from Avaaz reveals it can take up to 22 days for Facebook to downgrade content labeled as harmful misinformation, “giving ample time for it to go viral.” In just the small sampling analyzed by Avaaz, the group found pieces of misleading and false content that were shared “over 1.7 million times on Facebook, and viewed an estimated 117 million times.”

April 22, 2020

Facebook No.1 in Big Tech Lobbying

From fighting antitrust investigations to beating back encryption legislation that would help rein in child exploitation, Facebook has its hands full on the policy front – and is spending accordingly. Today, CNBC reports that Facebook led all Big Tech lobbying in the first quarter of 2020, spending $5.3 million to manipulate minds in the halls of government. Now if only they’d spent some of that money on solving the problems they’ve created rather than defending them.

May 13, 2020

Facebook Shells Out $52 Million to Workers With PTSD

Today, NPR reports that Facebook agreed, in a legal settlement, to provide $1,000-dollar cash payments to its more than 10,000 content moderators “who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.” And those diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work sifting through “child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide,” and other horrors, will be eligible for additional payments up to $50,000. “Facebook admitted no wrongdoing as a part of the settlement,” NPR continued.

May 22, 2020

White Supremacist Groups Are Thriving on Facebook

Today, a report released by Campaign for Accountability’s Tech Transparency Project found that “dozens of white supremacist groups are operating freely on Facebook, allowing them to spread their message and recruit new members.” Searching Facebook for 221 white supremacist organizations that have been designated as hate groups, Campaign for Accountability found that 113 of them – more than half – had a presence on the platform. The findings run directly counter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 claim that, “We do not allow hate groups on Facebook, overall”. Well, Mark, “overall” there’s still a lot of hate being allowed on your platform.

June 1, 2020

New Content Oversight Board In Need of Oversight

A much-touted Oversight Board tasked with making some of Facebook’s toughest content decisions gets off to a rough start today – with Axios reporting on one of its white members’ use of the N-word in front of his students. Board Co-chair Michael McConnell, a Stanford law professor, uttered the slur while reading aloud a quote attributed to Patrick Henry during a discussion of how racism and slavery impacted the writing of the Constitution.

June 2, 2020

Facebook Refuses to Act on Presidential Post Inciting Violence

Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doubles down on his company’s decision to let stand a post from President Trump that reads, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in reference to the ongoing protests in the US against racism and police brutality. The company’s handling of the post, reports Vox, “has divided employees at Facebook and prompted them to openly criticize Zuckerberg in a way they never have before.” 

June 9, 2020

Advertisers Drop Facebook in Wake of Protests, Trump Posts

By refusing to take action on controversial posts, including those from President Trump, Facebook has lost credibility, staff members, and now, as The New York Times today reports, it is losing advertisers as well. “The current developments have now rendered it morally impossible for us to continue feeding the same hand that complacently offers its services as the major platform for hate-mongering, promotion of violence, and disinformation,” said one advertiser. Facebook receives 98% of its revenue from ads – will advertiser disgust at the platform ever generate enough economic pain for Facebook to change its ways?

June 9, 2020

Facebook Makes 300,000 Content Moderation Mistakes Every Day

A study from NYU Stern shows that Facebook makes 300,000 content moderation mistakes every day. So just as Facebook is allowing way too many harmful posts to slip through, it’s flagging or deleting as many, if not more, legitimate posts. Consider Facebook’s content moderation math: it has 15,000 poorly paid (and often traumatized – see May 13, 2020 above) moderators trying to review three million posts – which works out to about 200 posts per person, per day, or about 25 per hour across a standard, eight-hour shift. “That’s under 150 seconds to decide if a post meets or violates community standards,” writes Forbes, whether the post is a simple image file or a 10-minute video.

As They Break Apart, We Band Together

It’s as clear as can be to all of us by now: Facebook is not going to change – or clean up their act – on their own. For all their big talk about fighting misinformation and corruption, the truth is, they are driven only by ad revenues and ungodly profitability. They do not care how their decisions impact individuals, voters, creatives, or even the truth itself.

They don’t care… but we do, and we think you do, too. And, so do a lot of people in positions to do something about it – our elected representatives.

Let’s make sure they know we are with them, and that we want them to take action. Share this timeline with friends. Send it to your elected official of choice. Sign our petition!

This can be the beginning of the end of Facebook’s abuses… if we all step up.

It has been long enough. 

#StandCreative

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