Mark Zuckerberg... It’s time to step up or step down!
Updated: May 3
Mark Zuckerberg is a man who has been at the forefront of my mind recently. After choosing to analyse the Facebook Cambridge-Analytica crisis for a Public Relations unit, it astounds me just how many unethical decisions the organisation makes. A speech from Sacha Baron Cohen was brought to my attention this afternoon by my lovely Solent PR lecturer Lynsey. Sacha’s speech challenging or what some would (quite rightly) call, ATTACKING Facebook resonated with my views of this social media platform. Sacha described it as “the greatest propaganda machine in history” and called out the company for refusing to fact check political campaigns.
As Sacha pointed out in his speech last Thursday, the algorithms that platforms like Facebook and Twitter use amplify content depending on user engagement and not on truth. It’s not a new concept that stories riddled with lies can be more engaging and interesting to an audience than a real, truthful account. This was confirmed in a study published in Science which found that 70% of Twitter users were more likely to retweet fake news stories.
With the general election in the UK quickly approaching us, it questions how many fake news adverts have Facebook authorised to reach our timelines? Twitter made a big statement in October when they banned political ads from their platform. This came (quite comically), a week after Facebook was involved in a huge public debate about fact-checking. Whilst it's hard to determine how efficient Twitter’s new regulations will be, the decision has been positive for the organisation's reputation and definitely looks like they’re trying to make ethical decisions for society. So Zuckerberg… if Twitter is trying why aren’t you?
Is it the money? Apparently not… Zuckerberg claimed political ads will be “less than 0.5% of their revenue” in 2020. The CEO went on to explain that political ads are important for the up-and-coming politicians who the traditional media don’t give attention to. Many have challenged his honourable stance, suggesting if he wanted to ‘help’ these politicians then why is he charging them at all?
Further investigations of this topic led me full circle back to the Cambridge-Analytica data scandal that I’ve just concluded in my PR & Comms class. If Facebook removed political advertising data, it would also remove Facebook’s insight into what motivates their users and therefore reduce their power. Would Facebook really permit political advertising just so they can acquire data from users, so soon after their data crisis?
But what does this mean for the United Kingdom’s general election? I can hold my hands up in embarrassment and say I am one of these silly generation Z's who don’t try hard enough to understand politics. It’s a minefield out there and for somebody who wrote a dissertation with Fake News as a key theme, I don’t know who or what to trust in politics. The people in this world like Zuckerberg must use their power for good and step up in the current climate where finding truth in our society is so hard. If these political ads were fact-checked and fake news was regulated, Facebook would be a far healthier and ethical platform.
So, Mark Zuckerberg, I say it’s time for you to step up or step down.
Miss Millie x
PS. I've attached a short clip from Sacha Baron Cohen's speech. Please watch!