Over the weekend, 28-year-old Christopher Wylie revealed to The Guardian how his former employer, Cambridge Analytica, harvested over 50 million Facebook profiles to create psychological profiles for political campaigns.
Since the news broke, a torrent of bad news has begun flow against the social media behemoth. Yesterday, #DeleteFacebook was trending on Twitter. The company’s stock shares nose-dived as nearly $50 billion were wiped off the company’s s stock value in just two days. Even the founder of Whatsapp, the messaging app bought by Facebook for $16 billion in 2014, has told users to delete their account. Think pieces on deleting your Facebook account have been sprouting up like weeds in the cracks (of social media’s waning facade). Company morale, according to the New York Times, is a basically one big sad reaction face.
For the first time, Facebook’s demise is something we can seriously consider. While the hot takes and shot-calling aren’t really our speed, there’s something to be said for contemplating the end of what has become a fixture in our daily lives (a pervasive, black-cloud kind of fixture). The tech behemoth was thought to be an immutable part of the media landscape. Indeed, terms like “behemoth” and “giant” are practically metonyms for the company. It’s important, in this moment, to remember the relative youth of this new version of the internet—the frontier is far from being settled.
Even though, Facebook has pretty much been fucking with the public’s psyche with the data they’ve been harvesting from profiles for the last several years, the thought of the company’s end was a fantasy. Despite the fact that in 2014, it was revealed that the company worked with academics at Cornell University to study whether the platform could influence user’s moods by selecting what posts people could and couldn’t see. None of the 689,000 users were informed of the social experiment.
Even in light of on-going probe on Russian troll farms coordinating across the social media platform to micro-target voters with ads during the 2016 election, the thought wasn’t one worth contemplating. The platform waved goodbye to some 2.8 million U.S. users, last year, before the company had to content with this current mushroom-cloud size public relations problem. And their response, to date, has been extremely uneven. Mark Zuckerberg has yet to respond to a request from British parliament to hand over evidence pertaining to the Cambridge Analytica revelations. The company isn’t even sure who will brief the House Judiciary Committee staff this week about the fiasco. Only this afternoon, did Zuckerberg respond with a tepid promise to remedy what is actually a feature of Facebook’s business model—not a bug. “This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it,” he wrote in a post. “We need to fix that.”
Perhaps, users will fix the problem for them.