Criticism of Facebook

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The criticism of Facebook has led to international media coverage and significant reporting of its legal troubles and the outsize influence it has on the lives and health of its users and employees, as well on its influence on the way media, specifically news, is reported and distributed. Notable issues include Internet privacy, such as use of a widespread "like" button on third-party websites tracking users,[1][2] possible indefinite records of user information,[3] automatic facial recognition software,[4][5] and its role in the workplace, including employer-employee account disclosure.[6] The use of Facebook can have negative psychological effects that include feelings of romantic jealousy[7][8] and stress,[9][10] a lack of attention,[11] and social media addiction that in some cases is comparable to drug addiction.[12][13]

Facebook's operations have also received coverage. The company's electricity usage,[14] tax avoidance,[15] real-name user requirement policies,[16] censorship policies,[17][18] handling of user data,[19] and its involvement in the United States PRISM surveillance program have been highlighted by the media and by critics.[20] Facebook has come under scrutiny for 'ignoring' or shirking its responsibility for the content posted on its platform, including copyright and intellectual property infringement,[21] hate speech,[22][23] incitement of rape[24] and terrorism,[25][26] fake news,[27][28][29] Facebook murder, crimes, and violent incidents live-streamed through its Facebook Live functionality.[30][31][32]

The company and its employees have also been subject to litigation cases over the years,[33][34][35][36] with its most prominent case concerning allegations that CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke an oral contract with Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra to build the then-named "HarvardConnection" social network in 2004, instead allegedly opting to steal the idea and code to launch Facebook months before HarvardConnection began.[37][38][39] The original lawsuit was eventually settled in 2009, with Facebook paying approximately $20 million in cash and 1.25 million shares.[40][41] A new lawsuit in 2011 was dismissed.[42] Some critics make predictions of Facebook's end based on the problems which they identify. Facebook has been banned by several governments for various reasons, including Syria,[43] China,[44] and Iran.[45]

Privacy issues[edit]

Facebook has faced a number of privacy concerns; for instance, in August 2019, it was revealed that the company had enlisted contractors to generate transcripts of users' audio chats.[46][47][48] In part these concerns stem from the company's revenue model that involves selling information about its users, and the loss of privacy this could entail. In addition, employers and other organizations and individuals have been known to use Facebook data for their own purposes. As a result peoples' identities have sometimes been revealed without their permission. In response, pressure groups and governments have increasingly asserted the users' right to privacy and to control their personal data.

Psychological/sociological effects[edit]

In addition to noting with evolutionary biologist George C. Williams in the development of evolutionary medicine that most chronic medical conditions are the consequence of evolutionary mismatches between a stateless environment of nomadic hunter-gatherer life in bands and contemporary human life in sedentary technologically modern state societies (e.g. WEIRD societies),[49] psychiatrist Randolph M. Nesse has argued that evolutionary mismatch is an important factor in the development of certain mental disorders.[50][51][52] In 1948, 50 percent of U.S. households owned at least one automobile.[53] In 2000, a majority of U.S. households had at least one personal computer and internet access the following year.[54] In 2002, a majority of U.S. survey respondents reported having a mobile phone.[55] In September 2007, a majority of U.S. survey respondents reported having broadband internet at home.[56] In January 2013, a majority of U.S. survey respondents reported owning a smartphone.[57]

Facebook addiction[edit]

The "World Unplugged" study, which was conducted in 2011, claims that for some users quitting social networking sites is comparable to quitting smoking or giving up alcohol.[58] Another study conducted in 2012 by researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in the United States found that drugs like alcohol and tobacco could not keep up with social networking sites regarding their level of addictiveness.[59] A 2013 study in the journal CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that some users decided to quit social networking sites because they felt they were addicted. In 2014, the site went down for about 30 minutes, prompting several users to call emergency services.[60]

In April 2015, the Pew Research Center published a survey of 1,060 U.S. teenagers ages 13 to 17 who reported that nearly three-quarters of them either owned or had access to a smartphone, 92 percent went online daily with 24 percent saying they went online "almost constantly".[61] In March 2016, Frontiers in Psychology published a survey of 457 post-secondary student Facebook users (following a face validity pilot of another 47 post-secondary student Facebook users) at a large university in North America showing that the severity of ADHD symptoms had a statistically significant positive correlation with Facebook usage while driving a motor vehicle and that impulses to use Facebook while driving were more potent among male users than female users.[62]

In June 2018, Children and Youth Services Review published a regression analysis of 283 adolescent Facebook users in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of Northern Italy (that replicated previous findings among adult users) showing that adolescents reporting higher ADHD symptoms positively predicted Facebook addiction, persistent negative attitudes about the past and that the future is predetermined and not influenced by present actions, and orientation against achieving future goals, with ADHD symptoms additionally increasing the manifestation of the proposed category of psychological dependence known as "problematic social media use".[63]

Self-harm and suicide[edit]

Research shows that people who are feeling suicidal use the internet to search for suicide methods. Websites provide graphic details and information on how to take your own life. This cannot be right. Where this content breaches the policies of internet and social media providers it must be removed.

I do not think it is going too far to question whether even you, the owners, any longer have any control over [the sites'] content. If that is the case, then children should not be accessing your services at all, and parents should be aware that the idea of any authority overseeing algorithms and content is a mirage.

In January 2019, both the Health Secretary of the United Kingdom, and the Children's Commissioner for England, urged Facebook and other social media companies to take responsibility for the risk to children posed by content on their platforms related to self-harm and suicide.[65]

Envy[edit]

Facebook has been criticized for making people envious and unhappy due to the constant exposure to positive yet unrepresentative highlights of their peers. Such highlights include, but are not limited to, journal posts, videos, and photos that depict or reference such positive or otherwise outstanding activities, experiences, and facts. This effect is caused mainly by the fact that most users of Facebook usually only display the positive aspects of their lives while excluding the negative, though it is also strongly connected to inequality and the disparities between social groups as Facebook is open to users from all classes of society. Sites such as AddictionInfo.org[66] state that this kind of envy has profound effects on other aspects of life and can lead to severe depression, self-loathing, rage and hatred, resentment, feelings of inferiority and insecurity, pessimism, suicidal tendencies and desires, social isolation, and other issues that can prove very serious. This condition has often been called "Facebook Envy" or "Facebook Depression" by the media.[67][68][69][70][71][72]

In The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), economist Thorstein Veblen observed that "Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure",[73] and that conspicuous leisure is the "non-productive consumption of time. Time is consumed non-productively (1) from a sense of the unworthiness of productive work, and (2) as an evidence of pecuniary ability to afford a life of idleness. But the whole of the life of the gentleman of leisure is not spent before the eyes of the spectators who are to be impressed with that spectacle of honorific leisure which in the ideal scheme makes up his life. For some part of the time his life is perforce withdrawn from the public eye, and of this portion which is spent in private the gentleman of leisure should, for the sake of his good name, be able to give a convincing account."[74]

In 2010, Social Science Computer Review published research by economists Ralf Caers and Vanessa Castelyns who sent an online questionnaire to 398 and 353 LinkedIn and Facebook users respectively in Belgium and found that both sites had become tools for recruiting job applicants for professional occupations as well as additional information about applicants, and that it was being used by recruiters to decide which applicants would receive interviews.[75] In 2017, sociologist Ofer Sharone conducted interviews with unemployed workers to research the effects of LinkedIn and Facebook as labor market intermediaries and found that social networking services (SNS) have had a filtration effect that has little to do with evaluations of merit, and that the SNS filtration effect has exerted new pressures on workers to manage their careers to conform to the logic of the SNS filtration effect.[76]

In July 2019, sociologists Steve McDonald, Amanda K. Damarin, Jenelle Lawhorne, and Annika Wilcox performed qualitative interviews with 61 HR recruiters in two metropolitan areas in the Southern United States and found that recruiters filling low- and general-skilled positions typically posted advertisements on online job boards while recruiters filling high-skilled or supervisor positions targeted passive candidates on LinkedIn (i.e. employed workers not actively seeking work but possibly willing to change positions), and concluded that this is resulting in a bifurcated winner-takes-all job market with recruiters focusing their efforts on poaching already employed high-skilled workers while active job seekers are relegated to hyper-competitive online job boards.[77]

A joint study conducted by two German universities demonstrated Facebook envy and found that as many as one out of three people actually feel worse and less satisfied with their lives after visiting the site. Vacation photos were found to be the most common source of feelings of resentment and jealousy. After that, social interaction was the second biggest cause of envy, as Facebook users compare the number of birthday greetings, likes, and comments to those of their friends. Visitors who contributed the least tended to feel the worst. "According to our findings, passive following triggers invidious emotions, with users mainly envying happiness of others, the way others spend their vacations; and socialize", the study states.[78]

A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that the more people used Facebook, the worse they felt afterwards.[79][71][72]

Narcissistic users who show excessive grandiosity give negative emotion to viewers and cause envy, but as a result, that may cause viewers' loneliness. Viewers sometimes need to terminate relationships with them to avoid this negative emotion. However, this "avoidance" such as "terminate relationships" would be reinforcement and it may lead to loneliness. The cyclical pattern is a vicious circle of loneliness and avoidance coping, the study states.[80]

Divorce[edit]

Social networks, like Facebook, can have a detrimental effect on marriages, with users becoming worried about their spouse's contacts and relations with other people online, leading to marital breakdown and divorce.[81] According to a 2009 survey in the UK, around 20 percent of divorce petitions included references to Facebook.[82][83][84][85] Facebook has given us a new platform for interpersonal communication. Researchers proposed that high levels of Facebook use could result in Facebook-related conflict and breakup/divorce.[86] Previous studies have shown that romantic relationships can be damaged by excessive Internet use, Facebook jealousy, partner surveillance, ambiguous information, and online portrayal of intimate relationships.[87][88][89][90][91] Excessive Internet users reported having greater conflict in their relationships. Their partners feel neglected and there's lower commitment and lower feelings of passion and intimacy in the relationship. According to the article, researchers suspect that Facebook may contribute to an increase in divorce and infidelity rates in the near future due to the amount and ease of accessibility to connect with past partners.[86]

Stress[edit]

Research performed by psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University indicated that Facebook adds stress to users' lives. Causes of stress included fear of missing important social information, fear of offending contacts, discomfort or guilt from rejecting user requests or deleting unwanted contacts or being unfriended or blocked by Facebook friends or other users, the displeasure of having friend requests rejected or ignored, the pressure to be entertaining, criticism or intimidation from other Facebook users, and having to use appropriate etiquette for different types of friends.[92] Many people who started using Facebook for positive purposes or with positive expectations have found that the website has negatively impacted their lives.[93]

Next to that, the increasing number of messages and social relationships embedded in SNS also increases the amount of social information demanding a reaction from SNS users. Consequently SNS users perceive they are giving too much social support to other SNS friends. This dark side of SNS usage is called 'social overload'. It is caused by the extent of usage, number of friends, subjective social support norms, and type of relationship (online-only vs offline friends) while age has only an indirect effect. The psychological and behavioral consequences of social overload include perceptions of SNS exhaustion, low user satisfaction, and high intentions to reduce or stop using SNS.[94]

Narcissism[edit]

In July 2018, a meta-analysis published in Psychology of Popular Media found that grandiose narcissism positively correlated with time spent on social media, frequency of status updates, number of friends or followers, and frequency of posting self-portrait digital photographs,[95] while a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Personality in April 2018 found that the positive correlation between grandiose narcissism and social networking service usage was replicated across platforms (including Facebook).[96] In March 2020, the Journal of Adult Development published a regression discontinuity analysis of 254 Millennial Facebook users investigating differences in narcissism and Facebook usage between the age cohorts born from 1977 to 1990 and from 1991 to 2000 and found that the later born Millennials scored significantly higher on both.[97] In June 2020, Addictive Behaviors published a systematic review finding a consistent, positive, and significant correlation between grandiose narcissism and the proposed category of psychological dependence called "problematic social media use".[98] Also in 2018, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and FIRE President Greg Lukianoff noted in The Coddling of the American Mind that former Facebook president Sean Parker stated in a 2017 interview that the Like button was consciously designed to prime users receiving likes to feel a dopamine rush as part of a "social-validation feedback loop".[99]

"Conspicuous compassion" is the practice of publicly donating large sums of money to charity to enhance the social prestige of the donor, and is sometimes described as a type of conspicuous consumption.[100][101] Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff argued that microaggression training on college campuses in the United States has led to a call-out culture and a climate of self-censorship due to fear of shaming by virtue signalling social media mobs with users who are often anonymous and tend to deindividuate as a consequence.[102] Citing February 2017 Pew Research Center survey data showing that critical Facebook postings expressing "indignant disagreement" were twice as likely to receive likes, comments, or shares (along with a similar finding for Twitter posts published in PNAS USA in July 2017),[103][104] Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell cite the phrase "moral grandstanding" to describe how having an audience on social media forums converts much of its interpersonal communication into a public performance.[105]

Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and the subsequent protests in his name, Civiqs and YouGov/Economist polls showed that while net support for Black Lives Matter among White Americans increased from –4 points to +10 points in early June 2020 (with 43 percent in support) it fell to –6 points by early August 2020,[106] and by April 2021, further Civiqs polls showed that support for Black Lives Matter among White Americans had reverted to roughly its level of support prior to George Floyd's murder (37 percent in favor and 49 percent opposed).[107] In a February 2021 interview on Firing Line, journalist Charles M. Blow criticized a minority of young white protestors in the George Floyd protests in the United States whom he argued were using the protests for their own personal growth to substitute for social rites of passage (e.g. prom) and summertime social gatherings (e.g. attending movie theaters or concerts) that were precluded by COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing measures, noting that as lockdowns began to be relaxed and removed, support for Black Lives Matter among whites began to decline.[108]

In February 2021, Psychological Medicine published a survey reviewing 14,785 publicly reported murders in English language news worldwide between 1900 and 2019 compiled in a database by psychiatrists at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Columbia University Irving Medical Center that found that of the 1,315 personal-cause mass murders (i.e. driven by personal motivations and not occurring within the context of war, state-sponsored or group-sponsored terrorism, gang activity, or organized crime) only 11 percent of mass murderers and only 8 percent of mass shooters had a "serious mental illness" (e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder), that mass shootings have become more common than other forms of mass murder since 1970 (with 73 percent occurring in the United States alone), and that mass shooters in the United States were more likely to have legal histories, to engage in recreational drug use or alcohol abuse, and to display non-psychotic psychiatric or neurologic symptoms.[109][110][111]

Survey coauthor psychiatrist Paul S. Appelbaum argued that the data from the survey indicated that "difficulty coping with life events seem more useful foci for prevention [of mass shootings] and policy than an emphasis on serious mental illness",[112] while psychiatrist Ronald W. Pies has suggested that psychopathology should be understood as a three-gradation continuum of mental, behavioral and emotional disturbance with most mass shooters falling into a middle category of "persistent emotional disturbance".[113] In 2015, psychiatrists James L. Knoll and George D. Annas noted that the tendency of most media attention following mass shootings on mental health leads to sociocultural factors being comparatively overlooked.[114] Instead, Knoll and Annas cite research by social psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell on narcissism and social rejection in the personal histories of mass shooters, as well as cognitive scientist Steven Pinker's suggestion in The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) that further reductions in human violence may be dependent upon reducing human narcissism.[115][116]

Non-informing, knowledge-eroding medium[edit]

Facebook is a Big Tech company with over 2.7 billion monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2020 and therefore has a meaningful impact on the masses that use it.[117] Big data algorithms are used in personalized content creation and automatization; however, this method can be used to manipulate users in various ways.[118] The problem of misinformation is exacerbated by the educational bubble, users' critical thinking ability and news culture.[119] Based on a 2015 study, 62.5% of the Facebook users are oblivious to any curation of their News Feed. Furthermore, scientists have started to investigate algorithms with unexpected outcomes that may lead to antisocial political, economic, geographic, racial, or other discrimination. Facebook has remained scarce in transparency of the inner workings of the algorithms used for News Feed correlation.[120] Algorithms use the past activities as a reference point for predicting users' taste to keep them engaged. However, this leads to the formation of a filter bubble that starts to refrain users from diverse information. Users are left with a skewed worldview derived from their own preferences and biases.[121]

In 2015, researchers from Facebook published a study indicating that the Facebook algorithm perpetuates an echo chamber amongst users by occasionally hiding content from individual feeds that users potentially would disagree with: for example the algorithm removed one in every 13 diverse content from news sources for self-identified liberals. In general, the results from the study indicated that the Facebook algorithm ranking system caused approximately 15% less diverse material in users' content feeds, and a 70% reduction in the click-through-rate of the diverse material.[122][123] In 2018, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and FIRE President Greg Lukianoff argued in The Coddling of the American Mind that the filter bubbles created by the News Feed algorithm of Facebook and other platforms are one of the principal factors amplifying political polarization in the United States since 2000 (when a majority of U.S. households first had at least one personal computer and then internet access the following year).[124][125]

In his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), philosopher Edmund Burke observed "We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages."[126] In The Signal and the Noise (2012), statistician Nate Silver noted that IBM had estimated that the world was generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day (more than 90 percent of which was created in the previous two years), and that the increase in data was analogous to increases in book production as a consequence of the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg as well as the effect of the increase in book production in causing the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, and the European wars of religion.[127]

Citing Burke, Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell suggested in The Atlantic in December 2019 that because the proportion of most of the information that Generation Z receives due to regular social media usage is information created primarily within the past month (e.g. cat videos, tabloid gossip about celebrities, sensationalistic hot takes on news items) rather than information created in decades or centuries past, members of Generation Z are less familiar with the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of humanity (e.g. great ideas, great books, history) than generations past, and as a consequence, are more prone to embrace misguided ideas that bring them greater esteem and prestige within their immediate social network (noting the declining faith among Generation Z in democracy across the ideological spectrum in polling data alongside renewed interest in socialism, communism, and Nazism that is reflective of ignorance of the history of the 20th century).[105][128][129]

Facebook has, at least in the political field, a counter-effect on being informed: in two studies from the US with a total of more than 2,000 participants, the influence of social media on the general knowledge on political issues was examined in the context of two US presidential elections. The results showed that the frequency of Facebook use was moderately negatively related to general political knowledge. This was also the case when considering demographic, political-ideological variables and previous political knowledge. According to the latter, a causal relationship is indicated: the higher the Facebook use, the more the general political knowledge declines.[130] In 2019, Jonathan Haidt argued that there is a "very good chance American democracy will fail, that in the next 30 years we will have a catastrophic failure of our democracy."[131] Following the 2021 United States Capitol attack, in February 2021, Facebook announced that it would reduce the amount of political content in users News Feeds.[132]

Other psychological effects[edit]

It has been admitted by many students that they have experienced bullying on the site, which leads to psychological harm. Students of high schools face a possibility of bullying and other adverse behaviors over Facebook every day. Many studies have attempted to discover whether Facebook has a positive or negative effect on children's and teenagers' social lives, and many of them have come to the conclusion that there are distinct social problems that arise with Facebook usage. British neuroscientist Susan Greenfield stuck up for the issues that children encounter on social media sites. She said that they can rewire the brain, which caused some hysteria over whether or not social networking sites are safe. She did not back up her claims with research, but did cause quite a few studies to be done on the subject. When that self is then broken down by others by badmouthing, criticism, harassment, criminalization or vilification, intimidation, demonization, demoralization, belittlement, or attacking someone over the site it can cause much of the envy, anger, or depression.[133][134][135]

Sherry Turkle, in her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, argues that social media brings people closer and further apart at the same time. One of the main points she makes is that there is a high risk in treating persons online with dispatch like objects. Although people are networked on Facebook, their expectations of each other tend to be lessened. According to Turkle, this could cause a feeling of loneliness in spite of being together.[136]

Between 2016 and 2018, the number of 12- to 15-year-olds who reported being bullied over social media rose from 6% to 11%, in the region covered by Ofcom.[65][better source needed]

User influence experiments[edit]

Academic and Facebook researchers have collaborated to test if the messages people see on Facebook can influence their behavior. For instance, in "A 61-Million-Person Experiment in Social Influence And Political Mobilization", during the 2010 elections, Facebook users were given the opportunity to "tell your friends you voted" by clicking on an "I voted" button. Users were 2% more likely to click the button if it was associated with friends who had already voted.[137]

Much more controversially, a 2014 study of "Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks" manipulated the balance of positive and negative messages seen by 689,000 Facebook users.[138] The researchers concluded that they had found "some of the first experimental evidence to support the controversial claims that emotions can spread throughout a network, [though] the effect sizes from the manipulations are small."[139]

Unlike the "I voted" study, which had presumptively beneficial ends and raised few concerns, this study was criticized for both its ethics and methods/claims. As controversy about the study grew, Adam Kramer, a lead author of both studies and member of the Facebook data team, defended the work in a Facebook update.[140] A few days later, Sheryl Sandburg, Facebook's COO, made a statement while traveling abroad. While at an Indian Chambers of Commerce event in New Delhi she stated that "This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was. It was poorly communicated and for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you."[141]

Shortly thereafter, on July 3, 2014, USA Today reported that the privacy watchdog group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) had filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission claiming that Facebook had broken the law when it conducted the study on the emotions of its users without their knowledge or consent. In its complaint, EPIC alleged that Facebook had deceived users by secretly conducting a psychological experiment on their emotions: "At the time of the experiment, Facebook did not state in the Data Use Policy that user data would be used for research purposes. Facebook also failed to inform users that their personal information would be shared with researchers."[142]

Beyond the ethical concerns, other scholars criticized the methods and reporting of the study's findings. John Grohol, writing for Psych Central, argued that despite its title and claims of "emotional contagion", this study did not look at emotions at all. Instead, its authors used an application (called "Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count" or LIWC 2007) that simply counted positive and negative words to infer users' sentiments. He wrote that a shortcoming of the LIWC tool is that it does not understand negations. Hence, the tweet "I am not happy" would be scored as positive: "Since the LIWC 2007 ignores these subtle realities of informal human communication, so do the researchers." Grohol concluded that given these subtleties, the effect size of the findings are little more than a "statistical blip".

Kramer et al. (2014) found a 0.07%—that's not 7 percent, that's 1/15th of one percent!!—decrease in negative words in people's status updates when the number of negative posts on their Facebook news feed decreased. Do you know how many words you'd have to read or write before you've written one less negative word due to this effect? Probably thousands.[143]

The consequences of the controversy are pending (be it FTC or court proceedings) but it did prompt an "Editorial Expression of Concern"[144] from its publisher, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as a blog posting from OkCupid titled "We experiment on human beings!"[145] In September 2014, law professor James Grimmelmann argued that the actions of both companies were "illegal, immoral, and mood-altering" and filed notices with the Maryland Attorney General and Cornell Institutional Review Board.[146]

In the UK, the study was also criticized by the British Psychological Society which said, in a letter to The Guardian, "There has undoubtedly been some degree of harm caused, with many individuals affected by increased levels of negative emotion, with consequent potential economic costs, increase in possible mental health problems and burden on health services. The so-called 'positive' manipulation is also potentially harmful."[147]

Tax avoidance[edit]

Facebook uses a complicated series of shell companies in tax havens to avoid paying billions of dollars in corporate tax.[148] According to The Express Tribune, Facebook is among the corporations that "avoided billions of dollars in tax using offshore companies."[149] For example, Facebook routes billions of dollars in profits using the Double Irish and Dutch Sandwich tax avoidance schemes to bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad concluded from the Paradise Papers published in late 2017 that Facebook pays "practically no taxes" worldwide.[150]

For example, Facebook paid:

  • In 2011, £2.9m tax on £840m profits in the UK;
  • In 2012 and 2013 no tax in the UK;
  • In 2014 £4,327 tax on hundreds of millions of pounds in UK revenues which were transferred to tax havens.[151]

According to economist and member of the PvdA delegation inside the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D) Paul Tang, between 2013 and 2015 the EU lost an estimated €1,453m – €2,415m to Facebook.[152] When comparing to others countries outside the EU, the EU is only taxing Facebook with a rate of 0.03% to 0.1% of its revenue (around 6% of its EBT) whereas this rate is near 28% in countries outside the EU. Even had a rate between 2% and 5% been applied during this period – as suggested by the ECOFIN Council – a fraud of this rate by Facebook would have meant a loss to the EU between €327m and €817m.[152]

Revenues, profits, tax and effective tax rates, Facebook Inc. 2013–2015.[152]
Revenue (m EUR) EBT (m EUR) Tax (m EUR) Tax / EBT Tax / Revenue
Total EU Rest of the world Total EU Rest of the world Total EU Rest of the world Total EU Rest of the world Total EU Rest of the world
Facebook Inc. 2013 5,720 3,069 2,651 2,001 (4) 2,005 911 3 908 46% n.a 45% 15.93% 0.10% 34.25%
2014 10,299 5,017 5,282 4,057 (20) 4,077 1,628 5 1,623 40% n.a 40% 15.81% 0.09% 30.73%
2015 16,410 8,253 8,157 5,670 (43) 5,627 2,294 3 2,291 40% 6% 41% 13.98% 0.03% 28.09%

On July 6, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a petition in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, asking for a court order to enforce an administrative summons issued to Facebook, Inc., under Internal Revenue Code section 7602,[153] in connection with an Internal Revenue Service examination of Facebook's year 2010 U.S. Federal income tax return.[154][155]

In November 2017, the Irish Independent recorded that for the 2016 financial year, Facebook had paid €30 million of Irish corporation tax on €12.6 billion of revenues that were routed through Ireland, giving an Irish effective tax rate of under 1%.[156] The €12.6 billion of 2016 Facebook revenues routed through Ireland was almost half of Facebook's global revenues.[157] In April 2018, Reuters wrote that all of Facebook's non–U.S. accounts were legally housed in Ireland for tax purposes, but were being moved due to the May 2018 EU GDPR regulations.[158]

In November 2018, the Irish Times reported that Facebook routed over €18.7 billion of revenues through Ireland (almost half all global revenues), on which it paid €38 million of Irish corporation tax.[159]

Treatment of employees and contractors[edit]

Moderators[edit]

Facebook hires some employees through contractors, including Accenture, Arvato, Cognizant, CPL Resources, and Genpact, to serve as content moderators, reviewing potentially problematic content posted to both Facebook and Instagram.[164] Many of these contractors face unrealistic expectations, harsh working conditions, and constant exposure to disturbing content, including graphic violence, animal abuse, and child pornography.[160][161] Contractor employment is contingent on achieving and maintaining a score of 98 on a 100-point scale on a metric known as "accuracy". Falling below a score of 98 can result in dismissal. Some have reported posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from lack of access to counseling, coupled with unforgiving expectations and the violent content they are assigned to review.[160]

Content moderator Keith Utley, who was employed by Cognizant, experienced a heart attack during work in March 2018; the office lacked a defibrillator, and Utley was transported to a hospital where he died.[162][165] Selena Scola, an employee of contractor Pro Unlimited, Inc., sued her employer after she developed PTSD as a result of "constant and unmitigated exposure to highly toxic and extremely disturbing images at the workplace".[166] In December 2019, former Cpl employee Chris Gray began legal action in the High Court of Ireland, claiming damages for PTSD suffered as a moderator,[167] the first of an estimated 20+ pending cases. In February 2020, employees in Tampa, Florida filed a lawsuit against Facebook and Cognizant alleging they developed PTSD and related mental health impairments as a result of constant and unmitigated exposure to disturbing content.[168]

In February 2020, the European Union Commissioners criticized the plans that Facebook has for dealing with the working conditions of those who are contracted to moderate content on the social media platform.[169]

Facebook agreed to settle a class action lawsuit for $52 million on May 12, 2020, which included a $1,000 payment to each of the 11,250 moderators in the class, with additional compensation available for the treatment of PTSD and other conditions resulting from the jobs.[170][171][172]

Employees[edit]

Plans for a Facebook-owned real estate development known as "Willow Village" have been criticized for resembling a "company town", which often curtails the rights of residents, and encourages or forces employees to remain within an environment created and monitored by their employer outside of work hours.[173] Critics have referred to the development as "Zucktown" and "Facebookville" and the company has faced additional criticism for the effect it will have on existing communities in California.

The operational manager at Facebook as of March 2021, along with three former candidates of the Facebook hiring process complained to the EEOC of racial bias being practiced at the company against Black people. The current employee, Oscar Veneszee Jr. accused the firm of conducting subjective evaluations and pushing the idea of racial stereotypes. The EEOC has labeled the practice as 'systemic' racial bias and has initiated an investigation.[174]

Misleading campaigns against competitors[edit]

In May 2011, emails were sent to journalists and bloggers making critical allegations about Google's privacy policies; however, it was later discovered that the anti-Google campaign, conducted by PR giant Burson-Marsteller, was paid for by Facebook in what CNN referred to as "a new level skullduggery" and which Daily Beast called a "clumsy smear". While taking responsibility for the campaign, Burson-Marsteller said it should not have agreed to keep its client's (Facebook's) identity a secret. "Whatever the rationale, this was not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined", it said.[175]

In December 2020, Apple Inc. announced an initiative of Anti-Tracking measures (opt-in tracking policy) to be introduced to their App Store Services. Facebook quickly reacted and started to criticise the initiative, claiming the Apple's anti-tracking privacy focused change will have "harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever". Facebook also launched a so-called "Speak Up For Small Businesses" page. Apple in their response stated that "users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not". Apple was also backed up by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who stated that "Facebook touts itself in this case as protecting small businesses, and that couldn't be further from the truth".[176]

Copying competitors' products and features[edit]

Beyond acquiring competitors in the social and messaging space with strong potential, Facebook often simply copies products or features to get to the market faster. Internal emails have shown that Facebook's leadership, including Mark Zuckerberg were frustrated by the time the company spends on prototyping,and suggested to explore copying entire products like Pinterest. “Copying is faster than innovating” - admitted an employee on the internal email thread, which continued: “If you gave the top-down order to go ahead, copy e.g. Pinterest or the gaming dynamics on Foursquare ... I am sure [a] very small team of engineers, a [product manager], and a designer would get it done super quickly.”[177][178]

Many Facebook employees seem to be questioning Facebook's approach of cloning competitors. According to leaks, a top quoted question in Facebook's internal all-hands was: “What is our next big product, which does not imitate already existing products on the market?”[179]

Snapchat[edit]

In 2014 Facebook launched Slingshot, an app for sending ephemeral photos like Snapchat does. In 2016 the company built Instagram Stories, which is a copy of Snapchat's most popular feature.[180]

TikTok[edit]

In August 2020, Facebook has built Instagram Reels, a feature that functions and looks similar to TikTok.[181]

Pinterest[edit]

Facebook, for several months, was experimenting with an app called Hobbi, that took many cues from Pinterest.[182]

Clubhouse[edit]

In the summer of 2021, Facebook started to roll out Live Audio Rooms, which resembles Clubhouse.[183]

Content[edit]

An example of a Facebook post censored due to an unspecified conflict with "Community Standards"
Error message generated by Facebook for an attempt to share a link to a website that is censored due to Community Standards in a private chat. Messages containing certain links will not be delivered to the recipient.

Facebook has been criticized for removing or allowing various content (posts, photos and entire groups and profiles).

Intellectual property infringement[edit]

Facebook has also been criticized for having lax enforcement of third-party copyrights for videos uploaded to the service. In 2015, some Facebook pages were accused of plagiarizing videos from YouTube users and re-posting them as their own content using Facebook's video platform, and in some cases, achieving higher levels of engagement and views than the original YouTube posts. Videos hosted by Facebook are given a higher priority and prominence within the platform and its user experience (including direct embedding within the News Feed and pages), giving a disadvantage to posting it as a link to the original external source.[184][185] In August 2015, Facebook announced a video-matching technology aiming to identify reposted videos, and also stated its intention to improve its procedures to remove infringing content faster.[186] In April 2016, Facebook implemented a feature known as "Rights Manager", which allows rights holders to manage and restrict the upload of their content onto the service by third-parties.[187]

Violent content[edit]

In 2013, Facebook was criticized for allowing users to upload and share videos depicting violent content, including clips of people being decapitated. Having previously refused to delete such clips under the guideline that users have the right to depict the "world in which we live", Facebook changed its stance in May, announcing that it would remove reported videos while evaluating its policy.[188] The following October, Facebook stated that it would allow graphic videos on the platform, as long as the intention of the video was to "condemn, not glorify, the acts depicted",[189] further stating that "Sometimes, those experiences and issues involve graphic content that is of public interest or concern, such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism, and other violence. When people share this type of graphic content, it is often to condemn it. If it is being shared for sadistic pleasure or to celebrate violence, Facebook removes it."[190] However, Facebook once again received criticism, with the Family Online Safety Institute saying that such videos "crossed a line" and can potentially cause psychological damage among young Facebook users,[189] and then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron calling the decision "irresponsible", citing the same concerns regarding young users.[190] Two days later, Facebook removed a video of a beheading following "worldwide outrage", and while acknowledging its commitment to allowing people to upload gory material for the purpose of condemnation, it also stated that it would be further strengthening its enforcement to prevent glorification.[190] The company's policies were also criticized as part of these developments, with some drawing particular attention to Facebook's permission of graphic content but potential removal of breastfeeding images.[191] In January 2015, Facebook announced that new warnings would be displayed on graphic content, requiring users to explicitly confirm that they wish to see the material.[192][193]

War crimes[edit]

Facebook has been criticized for failing to take down violent content depicting war crimes in Libya. A 2019 investigation by the BBC[194] found evidence of alleged war crimes in Libya being widely shared on Facebook and YouTube. The BBC found images and videos on social media of the bodies of fighters and civilians being desecrated by fighters from the self-styled Libyan National Army. The force, led by General Khalifa Haftar, controls a swathe of territory in the east of Libya and is trying to seize the capital, Tripoli. BBC Arabic found almost one hundred images and videos from Libya shared on Facebook and YouTube, in violation of their companies' guidelines.[195] The UK Foreign Office said it took the allegations extremely seriously and is concerned about the impact the recent violence is having on the civilian population.[196]

In 2017, a Facebook video of Libyan National Army (LNA) special forces commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli was uploaded showing him shooting dead three captured fighters. The video was then shared on YouTube over ten thousand times. The International Criminal Court used it as evidence to indict al-Werfalli for the war crime of murder.[197] The BBC found the original video was still on Facebook 2 years after his indictment and also discovered videos showing the bodies of civilians being desecrated.[citation needed] These were taken in Ganfouda, a district of Benghazi which was under siege by the LNA between 2016 and 2017. More than 300 people, including dozens of children died during the siege. A video uncovered by BBC Arabic showed soldiers mocking a pile of corpses of dead civilians and trampling on bodies. Among them was a 77-year-old woman, Alia Hamza. Her son, Ali Hamza, had five family members killed in Ganfouda.

Ali Hamza told BBC Arabic, "I sent links to lawyers to send to the ICC in the Hague against Khalifa Haftar and his military commanders regarding the massacres of civilians", said Hamza. In the video, the LNA soldiers label the civilians as terrorists. Human rights lawyer and war crimes specialist Rodney Dixon QC reviewed the evidence BBC Arabic found. "If groups are using those platforms to propagate their campaigns then those platforms should seriously look at their role because they could then be assisting in that process of further crimes being committed", he said.[citation needed] After presenting our findings to Facebook they removed all the videos that show a suspected war crime taking place. However, they opted not to suspend any of the accounts which we found linked to the images. Erin Saltman, Facebook's policy manager for counterterrorism in Europe, Middle East and Africa, told BBC Arabic, "Sometimes there are very conflicting narratives of whether or not the victim is a terrorist, or whether it's a civilian over who's committing that act, we cannot be the pure arbiters of truth."[195] But Facebook and YouTube's own community guidelines explicitly prohibit content that promotes or depicts acts of violence.[198]

Facebook Live[edit]

Facebook Live, introduced in August 2015 for celebrities[199] and gradually rolled out for regular users starting in January 2016,[200][201] lets users broadcast live videos, with Facebook's intention for the feature to be presenting public events or private celebrations.[202] However, the feature has been used to record multiple crimes, deaths, and violent incidents, causing significant media attention.[203][204][205][206][207][208][209][210]

Facebook has received criticism for not removing videos faster,[211] and Facebook Live has been described as a "monster [Facebook] cannot tame"[212] and "a gruesome crime scene for murders".[213] In response, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in May 2017 that the company would hire 3,000 people to review content and invest in tools to remove videos faster.[214][215][216]

Pro-anorexia groups[edit]

In 2008, Facebook was criticized for hosting groups dedicated to promoting anorexia. The groups promoted dramatic weight loss programs, shared extreme diet tips, and posted pictures of emaciated girls under "Thinspiration" headlines. Members reported having switched to Facebook from Myspace, another social networking service, due to a perceived higher level of safety and intimacy at Facebook.[217] In a statement to BBC News, a Facebook spokesperson stated that "Many Facebook groups relate to controversial topics; this alone is not a reason to disable a group. In cases where content is reported and found to violate the site's terms of use, Facebook will remove it."[218]

Pro-mafia groups' case[edit]

In Italy in 2009, the discovery of pro-mafia groups, one of them claiming Bernardo Provenzano's sainthood, caused an alert in the country[219][220][221] and brought the government to rapidly issue a law that would force Internet service providers to deny access to entire websites in case of refused removal of illegal contents. The amendment was passed by the Italian Senate and now needs to be passed unchanged by the Chamber of Deputies to become effective.[222][223][224]

Facebook criticized the government's efforts, telling Bloomberg that it "would be like closing an entire railway network just because of offensive graffiti at one station", and that "Facebook would always remove any content promoting violence and already had a takedown procedure in place."[225]

Trolling[edit]

On March 31, 2010, The Today Show ran a segment detailing the deaths of three separate adolescent girls and trolls' subsequent reactions to their deaths. Shortly after the suicide of high school student Alexis Pilkington, anonymous posters began trolling for reactions across various message boards, referring to Pilkington as a "suicidal CUSS", and posting graphic images on her Facebook memorial page. The segment also included an exposé of a 2006 accident, in which an eighteen-year-old student out for a drive fatally crashed her father's car into a highway pylon; trolls emailed her grieving family the leaked pictures of her mutilated corpse.[226]

There have been cases where Facebook "trolls" were jailed for their communications on Facebook, particularly memorial pages. In Autumn 2010, Colm Coss of Ardwick, Britain, was sentenced to 26 weeks in jail under s127 of the Communications Act 2003 of Great Britain,[227] for "malicious communications" for leaving messages deemed obscene and hurtful on Facebook memorial pages.[228][229]

In April 2011, Bradley Paul Hampson was sentenced to three years in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of using a carriage service (the Internet) to cause offense, for posts on Facebook memorial pages, and one count each of distributing and possessing child pornography when he posted images on the memorial pages of the deceased with phalluses superimposed alongside phrases such as "Woot I'm dead".[230][231]

Rape pages[edit]

A series of pro-rape and 'rape joke' content on Facebook drew attention from the media and women's groups.[232] Rape Is No Joke (RINJ), a group opposing the pages, argued that removing "pro-rape" pages from Facebook and other social media was not a violation of free speech in the context of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the concepts recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[233] RINJ repeatedly challenged Facebook to remove the rape pages.[234] RINJ then turned to advertisers on Facebook telling them not to let their advertising be posted on Facebook's 'rape pages'.[235]

Following a campaign that involved the participation of Women, Action and the Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and the activist Soraya Chemaly, who were among 100 advocacy groups, Facebook agreed to update its policy on hate speech. The campaign highlighted content that promoted domestic and sexual violence against women, and used over 57,000 tweets and more than 4,900 emails to create outcomes such as the withdrawal of advertising from Facebook by 15 companies, including Nissan UK, House of Burlesque and Nationwide UK. The social media website initially responded by stating that "While it may be vulgar and offensive, distasteful content on its own does not violate our policies",[236] but then agreed to take action on May 29, 2013, after it had "become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate".[237]

Child abuse images[edit]

In June 2015, the UK National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children raised concerns about Facebook's apparent refusal when asked to remove controversial video material which allegedly showed a baby in emotional distress.[238]

In March 2017, BBC News reported in an investigation that Facebook only removed 18 of the 100 groups and posts it had reported for containing child exploitation images. The BBC had been granted an interview with Facebook policy director Simon Milner under the condition that they provide evidence of the activity. However, when presented with the images, Facebook canceled the interview, and told the BBC that it had been reported to the National Crime Agency for illegally distributing child exploitation images (the NCA could not confirm whether the BBC was actually being investigated).[239] Milner later stated to the BBC that the investigation had exposed flaws in its image moderation process that have since been addressed, and that all of the reported content was removed from the service.[240]

According to data from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2020, there have been 20 million reported incidents of child sexual abuse material on Facebook. This accounted for 95% of total incidents recorded by the organization, while Google accounted for half a million incidents, Snapchat for 150,000 and Twitter for 65,000.[241]

Objectification of women[edit]

In July 2017, GMA News reported that "a number" of secret Facebook groups that had been engaging in illegal activity of sharing "obscene" photos of women had been exposed, with the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation warning group members of the possibility of being liable for violating child pornography and anti-voyeurism laws. Facebook stated that it would remove the groups as violations of its community guidelines.[242] A few days later, GMA News had an interview with one of the female victims targeted by one of the groups, who stated that she received friend requests from strangers and inappropriate messages. After reporting to authorities, the Philippine National Police's anti-cybercrime unit promised to take action in finding the accounts responsible.[243] Senator Risa Hontiveros responded to the incidents with the proposal of a law that would impose "stiff penalties" on such group members, stating that "These people have no right to enjoy our internet freedom only to abuse our women and children. We will not allow them to shame our young women, suppress their right to express themselves through social media and contribute to a culture of misogyny and hate".[244]

Anti-Semitism[edit]

Facebook has been suspected of having a double standard when it comes to pages and posts regarding the Arab–Israeli conflict. When it comes to alleged incitement, Facebook has been accused of being unfair, removing only posts and pages that attack Palestinians, while turning a blind eye to similar posts that are violently antisemitic. The NGO Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center conducted an experiment over the incitement issue, which sought to expose what it viewed as double standards regarding anti-Israel sentiment vis-a-vis the simultaneous launch of two Facebook pages: "Stop Palestinians" and "Stop Israel". Following the launch of the two nearly identical pages, the NGO posted hateful content simultaneously on both pages. Next, Shurat Hadin reported both faux-incitement pages to Facebook to see which, if either, would be removed. According to them, despite featuring nearly identical content, only one was removed from the online platform. They said the page inciting against Palestinians was closed by Facebook (on the same day that it was reported) for "containing credible threat of violence" which "violated our [Facebook's] community standards", but not the page inciting against Israelis. Shurat Hadin said that Facebook claimed that this page was "not in violation of Facebook's rules". Shurat Hadin's staged anti-Israel group "Stop Israel" still remains active on Facebook.[245] ProPublica stated in September 2017 that a website was able to target ads at Facebook users who were interested in "how to burn Jew" and "Jew hater". Facebook removed the categories and said it would try to stop them from appearing to potential advertisers.[246]

In March 2019, Facebook subsidiary Instagram declined to remove an anti-semitic image posted by right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, saying that it did not violate their community standards.[247][better source needed]

Incitement of violence against Israelis[edit]

Facebook has been accused of being a public platform that is used to incite violence. In October 2015, 20,000 Israelis claimed that Facebook was ignoring Palestinian incitement on its platform and filed a class-action suit demanding that Facebook remove all posts "containing incitement to murder Jews".[248]

Israeli politicians have complained that Facebook does not comply or assist with requests from the police for tracking and reporting individuals when they share their intent to kill or commit any other act of violence on their Facebook pages. In June 2016, following the murder of Hallel Ariel, 13, by a terrorist who posted on Facebook, Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan charged that "Facebook, which has brought a positive revolution to the world, has become a monster ... The dialogue, the incitement, the lies of the young Palestinian generation are happening on the Facebook platform." Erdan accused Facebook of "sabotaging the work of Israeli police" and "refusing to cooperate" when Israel police turns to the site for assistance. It also "sets a very high bar" for removing inciting content.[249]

In July 2016, a civil action for $1 billion in damages was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of the victims and family members of four Israeli-Americans and one US citizen killed by Hamas militants since June 2014.[250][251] The victims and plaintiffs in the case are the families of Yaakov Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old who was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas operatives in 2014; Taylor Force, a 29-year-old American MBA student and US Army veteran killed in a stabbing spree in Jaffa in 2016; Chaya Braun, a three-month-old thrown from her stroller and slammed into the pavement when a Hamas attacker drove his car into a light rail station in Jerusalem in an October 2014; 76-year-old Richard Lakin who was killed in the October 2015 shooting and stabbing attack on a Jerusalem bus; and Menachem Mendel Rivkin, who was seriously wounded in a January 2016 stabbing attack in Jerusalem.[251] The plaintiffs claimed that Facebook knowingly provided its social media platform and communication services to Hamas in violation of provisions of US Anti-Terrorism laws which prohibits US businesses from providing any material support, including services, to designated terrorist groups and their leaders. The government of the United States has designated Hamas as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization" as defined by US law. The suit claims that Hamas "used and relied on Facebook's online social network platform and communications services to facilitate and carry out its terrorist activity, including the terrorist attacks in which Hamas murdered and injured the victims and their families in this case".[250][251] The legal claim was rejected; the court found that Facebook and other social media companies are not considered to be the publishers of material users post when digital tools used by the company match content with what the tool identifies as interested consumers.[252][253]

In August 2016, Israel's security service, the Shin Bet, reported that it had arrested nine Palestinians who had been recruited by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist organization. Operatives of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Gaza Strip recruited residents of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel through Facebook and other social media sites. After recruiting cell leaders on Facebook, Hezbollah and the recruits used encrypted communications to avoid detection, and the leaders continued to recruit other members. The terror cells received Hezbollah funding and planned to conduct suicide bombings and ambushes and had begun preparing explosive devices for attacks, said the security service, which claimed credit for preventing the attacks. The Shin Bet said it also detected multiple attempts by Hezbollah to recruit Israeli Arabs through a Facebook profile.[254][255][256]

Currently, legislation is being prepared in Israel, allowing fines of 300,000 shekels for Facebook and other social media like Twitter and YouTube for every post inciting or praising terrorism that is not removed within 48 hours, and could possibly lead to further acts of terrorism.[257]

Countermeasure efforts[edit]

In June 2017, Facebook published a blog post, offering insights into how it detects and combats terrorism content. The company claimed that the majority of the terrorism accounts that are found are discovered by Facebook itself, while it reviews reports of terrorism content "urgently", and, in cases of imminent harm, "promptly inform authorities". It also develops new tools to aid in its efforts, including the use of artificial intelligence to match terrorist images and videos, detecting when content is shared across related accounts, and developing technologies to stop repeat offenders. The company stated that it has 150 people dedicated to terrorism countermeasures, and works with governments and industries in an effort to curb terrorist propaganda. Its blog post stated that "We want Facebook to be a hostile place for terrorists."[258][259]

Employee data leak[edit]

In June 2017, The Guardian reported that a software bug had exposed the personal details of 1,000 Facebook workers involved in reviewing and removing terrorism content, by displaying their profiles in the "Activity" logs of Facebook groups related to terrorism efforts,. In Facebook's Dublin, Ireland headquarters, six individuals were determined to be "high priority" victims of the error, after the company concluded that their profiles were likely viewed by potential terrorists in groups such as ISIS, Hezbollah and the Kurdistan Workers' Party. The bug itself, discovered in November 2016 and fixed two weeks later, was active for one month, and had also been retroactively exposing censored personal accounts from August 2016. One affected worker had fled Ireland, gone into hiding, and only returned to Ireland after five months due to a lack of money. Suffering from psychological distress, he filed a legal claim against Facebook and CPL Resources, an outsourcing company, seeking compensation. A Facebook spokesperson stated that "Our investigation found that only a small fraction of the names were likely viewed, and we never had evidence of any threat to the people impacted or their families as a result of this matter", and Craig D'Souza, Facebook's head of global investigations, said: "Keep in mind that when the person sees your name on the list, it was in their activity log, which contains a lot of information ... there is a good chance that they associate you with another admin of the group or a hacker". Facebook offered to install a home-alarm monitoring system, provide transport to and from work, and counseling through its employee assistance program. As a result of the data leak, Facebook is reportedly testing the use of alternative, administrative accounts for workers reviewing content, rather than requiring workers to sign in with their personal profiles.[260][261]

Fake news[edit]

Facebook has been criticized for not doing enough to limit the spread of fake news stories on their site, especially after the 2016 United States presidential election, which some[Like whom?] have claimed Donald Trump would not have won if Facebook had not helped spread what they claim to have been fake stories that were biased in his favor.[262] Mark Zuckerberg has begun to take steps to eliminate the prevalence of fake news on Facebook as a result of criticisms of Facebook's influence on the presidential election.[263] At a conference called Techonomy Mark Zuckerberg stated in regards to Donald Trump, "There's a profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason why someone could have voted the way that they did is because they saw some fake news". Zuckerberg affirms the idea that people do not stray from their own ideals and political leanings. He stated, "I don't know what to do about that" and, "When we started, the north star for us was: We're building a safe community".[264]

Zuckerberg has also been quoted in his own Facebook post, "Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic".[265] In addition, The Pew Research Center, stated that "62% of Americans obtain some, or all, of their news on social media-the bulk of it from Facebook".[266] The former editor at Facebook leaked inflammatory information about the websites' algorithm's pointing to certain falsehoods and bias by the news created within Facebook. Although Facebook initially denied claims of issues with fake new stories and their algorithms, they fired the entire trending team involved with a fake news story about Megyn Kelly being a "closeted liberal".[267]

Incitement of violence in Sri Lanka[edit]

Sri Lankan telecommunications minister Harin Fernando stated that Facebook had been too slow removing content and banning users who were using its platforms to facilitate violence during the 2018 anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka.[268][269] Facebook stated that it is increasing the number of Sinhalese-speakers it employs to review content.[268]

Uyghur genocide denial[edit]

In February 2021, a Press Gazette investigation found that Facebook had accepted promotional content from Chinese state media outlets such as China Daily and China Global Television Network that spread disinformation denying the Uyghur genocide.[270]

Myanmar abuses[edit]

The chairman of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said Facebook played a "determining role" in the Rohingya genocide.[271] Facebook has been criticized for enabling Islamophobic content targeting the Rohingya people to spread.[272] The United Nations Human Rights Council has called the platform "a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate".[273]

In response, Facebook removed accounts owned by the Myanmar Armed Forces for inciting hatred against the Rohingya people,[274][275][276] and "engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior."[277]

Blue tick[edit]

Facebook grants blue tick to verified accounts of public personalities, brands, and celebrities (including politicians and artists). They have no policy in the cases where an individual who has a verified blue tick account is convicted in a serious criminal case. There has been a recent case in India where a politician was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail in a serious bribery criminal case but his Facebook page still continues to be verified.[278]

Neo-Nazi and white supremacist content[edit]

From c.2018 until March 27, 2019, Facebook's internal policy was to permit "white nationalist" content but not "white supremacist" content, despite advice stating there is no distinction.[279] In practice, it hosted much white supremacist and neo-Nazi content.[280] On March 27, 2019, Facebook backtracked and stated that white nationalism "cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups".[279]

In 2020 the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found Facebook was hosting a white supremacist network with more than 80,000 followers and links to the UK far right. The CCDH said: "Facebook's leadership endangered public safety by letting neo-Nazis finance their activities through Facebook and Instagram ... . Facebook was first told about this problem two years ago and failed to act."[281]

COVID-19 and anti-vaccination content[edit]

In 2021, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found 430 Facebook pages – being followed by 45 million people – were spreading false information about COVID-19 or vaccinations.[282] This was despite a promise by Facebook in 2020 that no user or company should directly profit from false information about immunisation against COVID-19.[283] A Facebook spokesman said the company had "removed a small number of the pages shared with us for violating our policies".

Marketplace illegal Amazon rainforest sales[edit]

In February 2021 BBC investigations revealed Amazon rainforest plots on land reserved for indigenous people were being illegally traded on Facebook Marketplace with the sellers admitting they do not have the land title. The BBC reported Facebook's response is that they were ""ready to work with local authorities" however unwilling to take independent action.[284]

Technical[edit]

Real-name policy controversy and compromise[edit]

Facebook has a real-name system policy for user profiles. The real-name policy stems from the position "that way, you always know who you're connecting with. This helps keep our community safe."[16] The real-name system does not allow adopted names or pseudonyms,[285] and in its enforcement has suspended accounts of legitimate users, until the user provides identification indicating the name.[286] Facebook representatives have described these incidents as very rare.[286] A user claimed responsibility via the anonymous Android and iOS app Secret for reporting "fake names" which caused user profiles to be suspended, specifically targeting the stage names of drag queens.[287] On October 1, 2014, Chris Cox, Chief Product Officer at Facebook, offered an apology: "In the two weeks since the real-name policy issues surfaced, we've had the chance to hear from many of you in these communities and understand the policy more clearly as you experience it. We've also come to understand how painful this has been. We owe you a better service and a better experience using Facebook, and we're going to fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were."[288]

On December 15, 2015, Facebook announced in a press release[289] that it would be providing a compromise to its real name policy after protests from groups such as the gay/lesbian community and abuse-victims.[290] The site is developing a protocol that will allow members to provide specifics as to their "special circumstance" or "unique situation" with a request to use pseudonyms, subject to verification of their true identities. At that time, this was already being tested in the U.S. Product manager Todd Gage and vice president of global operations Justin Osofsky also promised a new method for reducing the number of members who must go through ID verification while ensuring the safety of others on Facebook. The fake name reporting procedure will also be modified, forcing anyone who makes such an allegation to provide specifics that would be investigated and giving the accused individual time to dispute the allegation.[291]

Deleting users' statuses[edit]

There have been complaints of user statuses being mistakenly or intentionally deleted for alleged violations of Facebook's posting guidelines. Especially for non-English speaking writers, Facebook does not have a proper support system to genuinely read the content and make decisions. Sometimes the content of a status did not have any "abusive" or defaming language, but it nevertheless got deleted on the basis that it had been secretly reported by a group of people as "offensive". For other languages than English, Facebook till now is not able to identify the group approach that is used to vilify humanitarian activism. In another incident, Facebook had to apologize after it deleted a free speech group's post about the abuse of human rights in Syria. In that case, a spokesman for Facebook said the post was "mistakenly" removed by a member of its moderation team, which receives a high volume of take-down requests.[292]

Enabling of harassment[edit]

Facebook instituted a policy by which it is now self-policed by the community of Facebook users.[when?] Some users have complained that this policy allows Facebook to empower abusive users to harass them by allowing them to submit reports on even benign comments and photos as being "offensive" or "in violation of Facebook Rights and Responsibilities" and that enough of these reports result in the user who is being harassed in this way getting their account blocked for a predetermined number of days or weeks, or even deactivated entirely.[293]

Facebook UK policy director Simon Milner told Wired magazine that "Once the piece of content has been seen, assessed and deemed OK, (Facebook) will ignore further reports about it."[294]

Lack of customer support[edit]

Like almost all other Web 2.0 sites, Facebook lacks any form of live customer support beyond "community" support pages and FAQ's which offer only general troubleshooting advice, often making it impossible to resolve issues that require the services of an administrator or are not covered in the FAQs. The automated emailing system used when filling out a support form often users back to the help center or to pages that are outdated and cannot be accessed, leaving users at a dead end with no further support available. A person who lost access to Facebook or does not have an account has no easy way to contact the company directly.

Downtime and outages[edit]

Facebook has had a number of outages and downtime large enough to draw some media attention. A 2007 outage resulted in a security hole that enabled some users to read other users' personal mail.[295] In 2008, the site was inaccessible for about a day, from many locations in many countries.[296] In spite of these occurrences, a report issued by Pingdom found that Facebook had less downtime in 2008 than most social-networking websites.[297] On September 16, 2009, Facebook started having major problems loading as people signed in. This was due to a group of hackers deliberately trying to drown out a political speaker who had social networking problems from continuously speaking against the Iranian election results. Just two days later, on September 18, Facebook went down again.[298]

In October 2009, an unspecified number of Facebook users were unable to access their accounts for over three weeks.[299][300][301][302]

On Monday, October 4, 2021, Facebook and its other apps - Instagram, Whatsapp, Messenger, Oculus, as well as the lesser-known Mapillary - had an hours-long DNS-related global outage.[303][304][305] The outage also affected anyone using "Log in with Facebook" to access third-party sites.[306] The downtime lasted approximately five hours and fifteen minutes, from approximately 15:50 UTC to 21:05 UTC, and affected roughly three billion users.[307] The outage was caused by a BGP withdrawal of all of the IP routes to their Domain Name (DNS) servers, which were all self-hosted at the time.[308][309]

Tracking cookies[edit]

Facebook has been criticized heavily for 'tracking' users, even when logged out of the site. Australian technologist Nik Cubrilovic discovered that when a user logs out of Facebook, the cookies from that login are still kept in the browser, allowing Facebook to track users on websites that include "social widgets" distributed by the social network. Facebook has denied the claims, saying they have 'no interest' in tracking users or their activity. They also promised after the discovery of the cookies that they would remove them, saying they will no longer have them on the site. A group of users in the United States have sued Facebook for breaching privacy laws.[310]

As of December 2015, to comply with a court order citing violations of the European Union Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications—which requires users to consent to tracking and storage of data by websites, Facebook no longer allows users in Belgium to view any content on the service, even public pages, without being registered and logged in.[311]

Email address change[edit]

In June 2012, Facebook removed all existing email addresses from user profiles, and added a new @facebook.com email address. Facebook claimed this was part of adding a "new setting that gives people the choice to decide which addresses they want to show on their timelines". However, this setting was redundant to the existing "Only Me" privacy setting which was already available to hide addresses from timelines. Users complained the change was unnecessary, they did not want an @facebook.com email address, and they did not receive adequate notification their profiles had been changed.[312] The change in email address was synchronized to phones due to a software bug, causing existing email addresses details to be deleted.[313] The facebook.com email service was retired in February 2014.[314]

Safety Check bug[edit]

On March 27, 2016, following a bombing in Lahore, Pakistan, Facebook activated its "Safety Check" feature, which allows people to let friends and loved ones know they are okay following a crisis or natural disaster, to people who were never in danger, or even close to the Pakistan explosion. Some users as far as the US, UK and Egypt received notifications asking if they were okay.[315][316]

End-to-end encryption[edit]

In February 2021, the National Crime Agency of the UK expressed its concerns that the installation of end-to-end encryption methods would result in the spread of child pornography going undetected.[317][318][319] Facebook representatives had previously told a UK Parliament committee that the use of these stronger encryption methods would render it easier for pedophiles to share child pornography on Facebook's networks.[317][320] The US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that around 70% of reports to law enforcement regarding the spread of child pornography on Facebook would be lost as a result of the implementation of end-to-end encryption.[320]

In May 2021, Facebook came under fire from Ken McCallum, the Director-General of MI5, for its plans to introduce end-to-end encryption into its Messenger and Instagram services.[317][321] McCallum stated that the introduction of such encryption methods would prevent security organizations from viewing communications related to ongoing terrorist plots and that the implementation of end-to-end encryption would block active counter-terrorism investigations.[317][321][322]

Censorship[edit]

Third-party responses to Facebook[edit]

Government censorship[edit]

Several countries have banned access to Facebook, including Syria,[323] China,[324] and Iran.[325] In 2010, the Office of the Data Protection Supervisor, a branch of the government of the Isle of Man, received so many complaints about Facebook that they deemed it necessary to provide a "Facebook Guidance" booklet (available online as a PDF file), which cited (amongst other things) Facebook policies and guidelines and included an elusive Facebook telephone number. This number when called, however, proved to provide no telephone support for Facebook users, and only played back a recorded message advising callers to review Facebook's online help information.[326]

In 2010, Facebook reportedly allowed an objectionable page, deemed by the Islamic Lawyers Forum (ILF), to be anti-Muslim. The ILF filed a petition with Pakistan's Lahore High Court. On May 18, 2010, Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry ordered Pakistan's Telecommunication Authority to block access to Facebook until May 31. The offensive page had provoked street demonstrations in Muslim countries due to visual depictions of Prophet Mohammed, which are regarded as blasphemous by Muslims.[327][328] A spokesman said Pakistan Telecommunication Authority would move to implement the ban once the order has been issued by the Ministry of Information and Technology. "We will implement the order as soon as we get the instructions", Khurram Mehran told AFP. "We have already blocked the URL link and issued instruction to Internet service providers yesterday", he added. Rai Bashir told AFP that "We moved the petition in the wake of widespread resentment in the Muslim community against the Facebook contents". The petition called on the government of Pakistan to lodge a strong protest with the owners of Facebook, he added. Bashir said a PTA official told the judge his organization had blocked the page, but the court ordered a total ban on the site. People demonstrated outside court in the eastern city of Lahore, Pakistan, carrying banners condemning Facebook. Protests in Pakistan on a larger scale took place after the ban and widespread news of that objectionable page. The ban was lifted on May 31 after Facebook reportedly assured the Lahore High Court that it would remedy the issues in dispute.[329][330][331]

In 2011, a court in Pakistan was petitioned to place a permanent ban on Facebook for hosting a page called "2nd Annual Draw Muhammad Day May 20th 2011".[332][333]

Organizations blocking access[edit]

Ontario government employees, Federal public servants, MPPs, and cabinet ministers were blocked from access to Facebook on government computers in May 2007.[334] When the employees tried to access Facebook, a warning message "The Internet website that you have requested has been deemed unacceptable for use for government business purposes". This warning also appears when employees try to access YouTube, MySpace, gambling or pornographic websites.[335] However, innovative employees have found ways around such protocols, and many claim to use the site for political or work-related purposes.[336]

A number of local governments including those in the UK[337] and Finland[338] imposed restrictions on the use of Facebook in the workplace due to the technical strain incurred. Other government-related agencies, such as the US Marine Corps have imposed similar restrictions.[339] A number of hospitals in Finland have also restricted Facebook use citing privacy concerns.[340][341]

Schools blocking access[edit]

The University of New Mexico (UNM) in October 2005 blocked access to Facebook from UNM campus computers and networks, citing unsolicited emails and a similar site called UNM Facebook.[342] After a UNM user signed into Facebook from off campus, a message from Facebook said, "We are working with the UNM administration to lift the block and have explained that it was instituted based on erroneous information, but they have not yet committed to restore your access." UNM, in a message to students who tried to access the site from the UNM network, wrote, "This site is temporarily unavailable while UNM and the site owners work out procedural issues. The site is in violation of UNM's Acceptable Computer Use Policy for abusing computing resources (e.g., spamming, trademark infringement, etc.). The site forces use of UNM credentials (e.g., NetID or email address) for non-UNM business." However, after Facebook created an encrypted login and displayed a precautionary message not to use university passwords for access, UNM unblocked access the following spring semester.[343]

The Columbus Dispatch reported on June 22, 2006, that Kent State University's athletic director had planned to ban the use of Facebook by athletes and gave them until August 1 to delete their accounts.[344] On July 5, 2006, the Daily Kent Stater reported that the director reversed the decision after reviewing the privacy settings of Facebook. As long as they followed the university's policies of online conduct, they could keep their profiles.[345]

Closed social networks[edit]

Several web sites concerned with social networking, such as Salesforce have criticized the lack of information that users get when they share data. Advanced users cannot limit the amount of information anyone can access in their profiles, but Facebook promotes the sharing of personal information for marketing purposes, leading to the promotion of the service using personal data from users who are not fully aware of this. Facebook exposes personal data, without supporting open standards for data interchange.[346] According to several communities[347] and authors[348] closed social networking, on the other hand, promotes data retrieval from other people while not exposing one's personal information.

Openbook was established in early 2010 both as a parody of Facebook and a critique of its changing privacy management protocols.[349]

Litigation[edit]

Terms of use controversy[edit]

While Facebook originally made changes to its terms of use[350] or, terms of service, on February 4, 2009, the changes went unnoticed until Chris Walters, a blogger for the consumer-oriented blog, The Consumerist, noticed the change on February 15, 2009.[351] Walters complained the change gave Facebook the right to "Do anything they want with your content. Forever."[352] The section under the most controversy is the "User Content Posted on the Site" clause. Before the changes, the clause read:[350]

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

The "license granted" refers to the license that Facebook has to one's "name, likeness, and image" to use in promotions and external advertising.[350] The new terms of use deleted the phrase that states the license would "automatically expire" if a user chose to remove content. By omitting this line, Facebook license extends to adopt users' content perpetually and irrevocably years after the content has been deleted.[351]

Many users of Facebook voiced opinions against the changes to the Facebook Terms of Use, leading to an Internet-wide debate over the ownership of content. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) prepared a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Many individuals were frustrated with the removal of the controversial clause. Facebook users, numbering more than 38,000, joined a user group against the changes, and a number of blogs and news sites have written about this issue.[351]

After the change was brought to light in Walters's blog entry, in his blog on February 16, 2009, Zuckerberg addressed the issues concerning the recently made changes to Facebook's terms of use. Zuckerberg wrote "Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with."[353] In addition to this statement Zuckerberg explained the paradox created when people want to share their information (phone number, pictures, email address, etc.) with the public, but at the same time desire to remain in complete control of who has access to this info.[354]

To calm criticism, Facebook returned to its original terms of use. However, on February 17, 2009, Zuckerberg wrote in his blog, that although Facebook reverted to its original terms of use, it is in the process of developing new terms to address the paradox. Zuckerberg stated that these new terms will allow Facebook users to "share and control their information, and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand." Zuckerberg invited users to join a group entitled "Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" to give their input and help shape the new terms.

On February 26, 2009, Zuckerberg posted a blog, updating users on the progress of the new Terms of Use. He wrote, "We decided we needed to do things differently and so we're going to develop new policies that will govern our system from the ground up in an open and transparent way." Zuckerberg introduces the two new additions to Facebook: the Facebook Principles[355] and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.[356] Both additions allow users to vote on changes to the terms of use before they are officially released. Because "Facebook is still in the business of introducing new and therefore potentially disruptive technologies", Zuckerberg explains, users need to adjust and familiarize themselves with the products before they can adequately show their support.[357]

This new voting system was initially applauded as Facebook's step to a more democratized social network system.[358] However, the new terms were harshly criticized in a report by computer scientists from the University of Cambridge, who stated that the democratic process surrounding the new terms is disingenuous and significant problems remain in the new terms.[359] The report was endorsed by the Open Rights Group.[360]

In December 2009, EPIC and a number of other U.S. privacy organizations filed another complaint[361] with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding Facebook's Terms of Service. In January 2011 EPIC filed a subsequent complaint[362] claiming that Facebook's new policy of sharing users' home address and mobile phone information with third-party developers were "misleading and fail[ed] to provide users clear and privacy protections", particularly for children under age 18.[363] Facebook temporarily suspended implementation of its policy in February 2011, but the following month announced it was "actively considering" reinstating the third-party policy.[364]

Interoperability and data portability[edit]

Facebook has been criticized for failing to offer users a feature to export their friends' information, such as contact information, for use with other services or software. The inability of users to export their social graph in an open standard format contributes to vendor lock-in and contravenes the principles of data portability.[365] Automated collection of user information without Facebook's consent violates its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,[366] and third-party attempts to do so (e.g., Web scraping) have resulted in litigation, Power.com.

Facebook Connect has been criticized for its lack of interoperability with OpenID.[367]

Lawsuits over privacy[edit]

Facebook's strategy of making revenue through advertising has created a lot of controversy for its users as some argue that it is "a bit creepy ... but it is also brilliant."[368] Some Facebook users have raised privacy concerns because they do not like that Facebook sells user's information to third parties. In 2012, users sued Facebook for using their pictures and information on a Facebook advertisement.[369] Facebook gathers user information by keeping track of pages users have "Liked" and through the interactions users have with their connections.[370] They then create value from the gathered data by selling it.[370] In 2009 users also filed a lawsuit for Facebook's privacy invasion through the Facebook Beacon system. Facebook's team believed that through the Beacon system people could inspire their friends to buy similar products, however, users did not like the idea of sharing certain online purchases with their Facebook friends.[371] Users were against Facebook's invasion of privacy and sharing that privacy with the world. Facebook users became more aware of Facebook's behavior with user information in 2009 as Facebook launched their new Terms of Service. In Facebook's terms of service, Facebook admits that user information may be used for some of Facebook's own purposes such as sharing a link to your posted images or for their own commercials and advertisements.[372]

As Dijck argues in his book that, "the more users know about what happens to their personal data, the more inclined they are to raise objections."[370] This created a battle between Facebook and Facebook users described as the "battle for information control".[370] Facebook users have become aware of Facebook's intentions and people now see Facebook "as serving the interests of companies rather than its users."[373] In response to Facebook selling user information to third parties, concerned users have resorted to the method of "Obfuscation".[374] Through obfuscation users can purposely hide their real identity and provide Facebook with false information that will make their collected data less accurate.[374] By obfuscating information through sites such as FaceCloak, Facebook users have regained control of their personal information.[374]

Better Business Bureau review[edit]

As of December 2010, the Better Business Bureau gave Facebook an "A" rating.[375][376]

As of December 2010, the 36-month running count of complaints about Facebook logged with the Better Business Bureau is 1136, including 101 ("Making a full refund, as the consumer requested"), 868 ("Agreeing to perform according to their contract"), 1 ("Refuse [sic] to adjust, relying on terms of agreement"), 20 ("Unassigned"), 0 ("Unanswered") and 136 ("Refusing to make an adjustment").[375]

Security[edit]

Facebook's software has proven vulnerable to likejacking. On July 28, 2010, the BBC reported that security consultant Ron Bowes used a piece of code to scan Facebook profiles to collect data of 100 million profiles. The data collected was not hidden by the user's privacy settings. Bowes then published the list online. This list, which has been shared as a downloadable file, contains the URL of every searchable Facebook user's profile, their name and unique ID. Bowes said he published the data to highlight privacy issues, but Facebook claimed it was already public information.[377]

In early June 2013, The New York Times reported that an increase in malicious links related to the Trojan horse malware program Zeus were identified by Eric Feinberg, founder of the advocacy group Fans Against Kounterfeit Enterprise (FAKE). Feinberg said that the links were present on popular NFL Facebook fan pages and, following contact with Facebook, was dissatisfied with the corporation's "after-the-fact approach". Feinberg called for oversight, stating, "If you really want to hack someone, the easiest place to start is a fake Facebook profile—it's so simple, it's stupid."[378]

Rewards for vulnerability reporting[edit]

On August 19, 2013, it was reported that a Facebook user from Palestinian Autonomy, Khalil Shreateh, found a bug that allowed him to post material to other users' Facebook Walls. Users are not supposed to have the ability to post material to the Facebook Walls of other users unless they are approved friends of those users that they have posted material to. To prove that he was telling the truth, Shreateh posted material to Sarah Goodin's wall, a friend of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Following this, Shreateh contacted Facebook's security team with the proof that his bug was real, explaining in detail what was going on. Facebook has a bounty program in which it compensates people a $500+ fee for reporting bugs instead of using them to their advantage or selling them on the black market. However, it was reported that instead of fixing the bug and paying Shreateh the fee, Facebook originally told him that "this was not a bug" and dismissed him. Shreateh then tried a second time to inform Facebook, but they dismissed him yet again. On the third try, Shreateh used the bug to post a message to Mark Zuckerberg's Wall, stating "Sorry for breaking your privacy ... but a couple of days ago, I found a serious Facebook exploit" and that Facebook's security team was not taking him seriously. Within minutes, a security engineer contacted Shreateh, questioned him on how he performed the move and ultimately acknowledged that it was a bug in the system. Facebook temporarily suspended Shreateh's account and fixed the bug after several days. However, in a move that was met with much public criticism and disapproval, Facebook refused to pay out the 500+ fee to Shreateh; instead, Facebook responded that by posting to Zuckerberg's account, Shreateh had violated one of their terms of service policies and therefore "could not be paid". Included with this, the Facebook team strongly censured Shreateh over his manner of resolving the matter. In closing, they asked that Shreateh continue to help them find bugs.[379][380][381]

On August 22, 2013, Yahoo News reported that Marc Maiffret, a chief technology officer of the cybersecurity firm BeyondTrust, is prompting hackers to help raise a $10,000 reward for Khalil Shreateh. On August 20, Maiffret stated that he had already raised $9,000 in his efforts, including the $2,000 he himself contributed. He and other hackers alike have denounced Facebook for refusing Shreateh compensation. Maiffret said: "He is sitting there in Palestine doing this research on a five-year-old laptop that looks like it is half broken. It's something that might help him out in a big way." Facebook representatives have since responded, "We will not change our practice of refusing to pay rewards to researchers who have tested vulnerabilities against real users." Facebook representatives also claimed they'd paid out over $1 million to individuals who have discovered bugs in the past.[382]

Environmental impacts[edit]

In 2010, Prineville, Oregon, was chosen as the site for Facebook's new data center.[383] However, the center has been met with criticism from environmental groups such as Greenpeace because the power utility company contracted for the center, PacifiCorp, generates 60% of its electricity from coal.[384][385][386] In September 2010, Facebook received a letter from Greenpeace containing half a million signatures asking the company to cut its ties to coal-based electricity.[387]

On April 21, 2011, Greenpeace released a report showing that of the top ten big brands in cloud computing, Facebook relied the most on coal for electricity for its data centers. At the time, data centers consumed up to 2% of all global electricity and this amount was projected to increase. Phil Radford of Greenpeace said "we are concerned that this new explosion in electricity use could lock us into old, polluting energy sources instead of the clean energy available today".[388]

On December 15, 2011, Greenpeace and Facebook announced together that Facebook would shift to use clean and renewable energy to power its own operations. Marcy Scott Lynn, of Facebook's sustainability program, said it looked forward "to a day when our primary energy sources are clean and renewable" and that the company is "working with Greenpeace and others to help bring that day closer".[389][390]

Advertising[edit]

Click fraud[edit]

In July 2012, startup Limited Run claimed that 80% of its Facebook clicks came from bots.[391][392][393] Limited Run co-founder Tom Mango told TechCrunch that they "spent roughly a month testing this" with six web analytics services including Google Analytics and in-house software.[391] Click fraud (Allege reason) Limited Run said it came to the conclusion that the clicks were fraudulent after running its own analysis. It determined that most of the clicks for which Facebook was charging it came from computers that weren't loading Javascript, a programming language that allows Web pages to be interactive. Almost all Web browsers load Javascript by default, so the assumption is that if a click comes from one that isn't, it's probably not a real person but a bot.[394]

Like fraud[edit]

Facebook offers an advertising tool for pages to get more "likes".[395] According to Business Insider, this advertising tool is called "Suggested Posts" or "Suggested Pages", allowing companies to market their page to thousands of new users for as little as $50.[396]

Global Fortune 100 firms are increasingly using social media marketing tools as the number of "likes" per Facebook page has risen by 115% globally.[clarification needed][397] Biotechnology company Comprendia investigated Facebook's "likes" through advertising by analyzing the life science pages with the most likes. They concluded that at as much as 40% of "likes" from company pages are suspected to be fake.[398] According to Facebook's annual report, an estimated 0.4% and 1.2% of active users are undesirable accounts that create fake likes.[399]

Small companies such as PubChase have publicly testified against Facebook's advertising tool, claiming legitimate advertising on Facebook creates fraudulent Facebook "likes". In May 2013, PubChase decided to build up its Facebook following through Facebook's advertising tool, which promises to "connect with more of the people who matter to you". After the first day, the company grew suspicious of the increased likes as they ended up with 900 likes from India. According to PubChase, none of the users behind the "likes" seemed to be scientists. The statistics from Google Analytics indicate that India is not in the company's main user base. PubChase continues by stating that Facebook has no interface to delete the fake likes; rather, the company must manually delete each follower themselves.[400]

In February 2014, Derek Muller used his YouTube account Veritasium to upload a video titled "Facebook Fraud". Within three days, the video had gone viral with more than a million views (it has reached 2,521,614 views as of June 10, 2014). In the video, Muller illustrates how after paying US$50 to Facebook advertising, the "likes" to his fan page have tripled in a few days and soon reached 70,000 "likes", compared to his original 2,115 likes before the advertising. Despite the significant increase in likes, Muller noticed his page has actually decreased in engagement – there were fewer people commenting, sharing, and liking his posts and updates despite the significant increase in "likes". Muller also noticed that the users that "liked" his page were users that liked hundreds of other pages, including competing pages such as AT&T and T-Mobile. He theorizes that users are purposely clicking "like" on any and every page to deter attention away from the pages they were paid to "like". Muller claims, "I never bought fake likes, I used Facebook legitimate advertising, but the results are as if I paid for fake likes from a click farm".[401][better source needed]

In response to the fake "likes" complaints, Facebook told Business Insider:

We're always focused on maintaining the integrity of our site, but we've placed an increased focus on abuse from fake accounts recently. We've made a lot of progress by building a combination of automated and manual systems to block accounts used for fraudulent purposes and Like button clicks. We also take action against sellers of fake clicks and help shut them down.[396]

Undesired targeting[edit]

On August 3, 2007, several British companies, including First Direct, Vodafone, Virgin Media, The Automobile Association, Halifax and Prudential pulled advertising in Facebook after finding that their ads were displayed on the page of the British National Party, a far-right political party.[402]

Facilitation of housing discrimination[edit]

Facebook has faced allegations that its advertising platforms facilitate housing discrimination by means of internal functions for targeted advertising, which allowed advertisers to target or exclude specific audiences from campaigns.[403][404][405] Researchers have also found that Facebook's advertising platform may be inherently discriminatory, since ad delivery is also influenced by how often specific demographics interact with specific types of advertising—even if they are not explicitly determined by the advertiser.[406]

Under the United States' Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to show a preference for or against tenants based on specific protected classes (including race, ethnicity, and disabilities), when advertising or negotiating the rental or sale of housing. In 2016, ProPublica found that advertisers could target or exclude users from advertising based on an "Ethnic Affinity"—a demographic trait which is determined based on a user's interests and behaviors on Facebook, and not explicitly provided by the user. This could, in turn, be used to discriminate based on race.[407] In February 2017, Facebook stated that it would implement stronger measures to forbid discriminatory advertising across the entire platform. Advertisers who attempt to create ads for housing, employment, or credit (HEC) opportunities would be blocked from using ethnic affinities (renamed "multicultural affinities" and now classified as behaviors) to target the ad. If an advertiser uses any other audience segment to target ads for HEC, they would be informed of the policies, and be required to affirm their compliance with relevant laws and policies.[408]

However, in November 2017, ProPublica found that automated enforcement of these new policies was inconsistent. They were also able to successfully create housing ads that excluded users based on interests and other factors that effectively imply associations with protected classes, including interests in wheelchair ramps, the Spanish-language television network Telemundo, and New York City ZIP codes with majority minority populations. In response to the report, Facebook temporarily disabled the ability to target any ad with exclusions based on multicultural affinities.[403][405]

In April 2018, Facebook permanently removed the ability to create exclusions based on multicultural affinities. In July 2018, Facebook signed a legally binding agreement with the State of Washington to take further steps within 90 days to prevent the use of its advertising platform for housing discrimination against protected classes.[409] The following month, Facebook announced that it would remove at least 5,000 categories from its exclusion system to prevent "misuse", including those relating to races and religions.[410] On March 19, 2019, Facebook settled a lawsuit over the matter with the National Fair Housing Alliance, agreeing to create a separate portal for HEC advertising with limited targeting options by September 2019, and to provide a public archive of all HEC advertising.[411][412]

On March 28, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) filed a lawsuit against Facebook, having filed a formal complaint against the company on August 13, 2018. The HUD also took issue with Facebook's tendency to deliver ads based on users having "particular characteristics [that are] most likely to engage with the ad".[413][404]

Fake accounts[edit]

In August 2012, Facebook revealed that more than 83 million Facebook accounts (8.7% of total users) are fake accounts.[414] These fake profiles consist of duplicate profiles, accounts for spamming purposes and personal profiles for business, organization or non-human entities such as pets.[415] As a result of this revelation, the share price of Facebook dropped below $20.[416] Furthermore, there is much effort to detect fake profiles using automated means, in one such work, machine learning techniques are used to detect fake users.[417]

Facebook initially refused to remove a "business" page devoted to a woman's anus, created without her knowledge while she was underage, due to other Facebook users having expressed interest in the topic. After Buzzfeed published a story about it, the page was finally removed. The page listed her family's former home address as that of the "business".[418]

User interface[edit]

Upgrades[edit]

September 2008[edit]

In September 2008, Facebook permanently moved its users to what they termed the "New Facebook" or Facebook 3.0.[419] This version contained several different features and a complete layout redesign. Between July and September, users had been given the option to use the new Facebook in place of the original design,[420] or to return to the old design.

Facebook's decision to migrate their users was met with some controversy in their community. Several groups started opposing the decision, some with over a million users.[421]

October 2009[edit]

In October 2009, Facebook redesigned the news feed so that the user could view all types of things that their friends were involved with. In a statement, they said,[354]

your applications [stories] generate can show up in both views. The best way for your stories to appear in the News Feed filter is to create stories that are highly engaging, as high quality, interesting stories are most likely to garner likes and comments by the user's friends.

This redesign was explained as:[354]

News Feed will focus on popular content, determined by an algorithm based on interest in that story, including the number of times an item is liked or commented on. Live Feed will display all recent stories from a large number of a user's friends.

The redesign was met immediately with criticism with users, many who did not like the amount of information that was coming at them. This was also compounded by the fact that people could not select what they saw.

November/December 2009[edit]

In November 2009, Facebook issued a proposed new privacy policy, and adopted it unaltered in December 2009. They combined this with a rollout of new privacy settings. This new policy declared certain information, including "lists of friends", to be "publicly available", with no privacy settings; it was previously possible to keep access to this information restricted. Due to this change, the users who had set their "list of friends" as private were forced to make it public without even being informed, and the option to make it private again was removed. This was protested by many people and privacy organizations such as the EFF.[422]

The change was described by Ryan Tate as Facebook's Great Betrayal,[423] forcing user profile photos and friends lists to be visible in users' public listing, even for users who had explicitly chosen to hide this information previously,[422] and making photos and personal information public unless users were proactive about limiting access.[424] For example, a user whose "Family and Relationships" information was set to be viewable by "Friends Only" would default to being viewable by "Everyone" (publicly viewable). That is, information such as the gender of the partner the user is interested in, relationship status, and family relations became viewable to those even without a Facebook account. Facebook was heavily criticized[425] for both reducing its users' privacy and pushing users to remove privacy protections. Groups criticizing the changes include the Electronic Frontier Foundation[422] and American Civil Liberties Union.[426] Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, had hundreds of personal photos and his events calendar exposed in the transition.[427] Facebook has since re-included an option to hide friends lists from being viewable; however, this preference is no longer listed with other privacy settings, and the former ability to hide the friends list from selected people among one's own friends is no longer possible.[428] Journalist Dan Gillmor deleted his Facebook account over the changes, stating he "can't entirely trust Facebook"[429] and Heidi Moore at Slate's Big Money temporarily deactivated her account as a "conscientious objection".[430] Other journalists have been similarly disappointed and outraged by the changes.[423] Defending the changes, founder Mark Zuckerberg said "we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it".[431] The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada launched another investigation into Facebook's privacy policies after complaints following the change.[432]

January 2018[edit]

Following a difficult 2017, marked by accusations of relaying fake news and revelations about groups close to Russia which tried to influence the 2016 US presidential election (see Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections) via advertisements on his service, Mark Zuckerberg, announced in his traditional January post:

"We're making a major change to how we build Facebook. I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions".

— Mark Zuckerberg

Following surveys on Facebook users,[433] this desire for change will take the form of a reconfiguration of the News Feed algorithms to:

  • Prioritize content of family members and friends (Mark Zuckerberg January 12, Facebook:[434] "The first changes you'll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups".)
  • Give priority to news articles from local sources considered more credible

The recent changes of the News Feed algorithm[434] (see content : News Feed#History) are expected to improve "the amount of meaningful content viewed".[435] To this end, the new algorithm is supposed to determine the publications around which a user is most likely to interact with his friends, and make them appear higher in the News Feed instead of items for example from media companies or brands. These are posts "that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to".[436] But, as even Mark Zuckerberg admitted,[434] he "expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable". The less public content a Facebook user sees on their News Feed, the less brands are able to reach consumers. That's unarguably a major lose for advertisers[437] and publishers.

This change which seems to be just another update of the social network, is widely criticized because of the heavy consequences it might lead to "In countries such as the Philippines, Myanmar and South Sudan and emerging democracies such Bolivia and Serbia, it is not ethical to plead platform neutrality or to set up the promise of a functioning news ecosystem and then simply withdraw at a whim".[438] Indeed, in such countries, Facebook was the promise of a reliable and objective platform on which they could hope for raw information. Independent media companies tried to fight censorship through their articles and were promoting in a way the right for citizens to know what is going on in their countries.

The company's way of handling scandals and criticism over fake news by diminishing its media company image is even defined as "potentially deadly"[438] regarding the poor and fraught political environments like Myanmar or South Sudan appealed by the "free basics" programme of the social network. Serbian journalist Stevan Dojcinovic goes further by describing Facebook as a "monster" and accuses the company of "showing a cynical lack of concern for how its decisions affect the most vulnerable".[439] Indeed, Facebook had experimented with withdrawing media companies' news on user's newsfeed in few countries such as Serbia. Stevan Docjcinovic then wrote an article explaining how Facebook helped them "to bypass mainstream channels and bring [their] stories to hundreds of thousands of readers".[439] The rule about publishers is not being applied to paid posts raising the journalist's fears about the social network "becoming just another playground for the powerful"[439] by letting them for example buy Facebook ads. Critics are also visible in other media companies depicting the private company as the "destroyer of worlds". LittleThings CEO, Joe Speiser states that the algorithm shift "took out roughly 75% of LittleThings" organic traffic while hammering its profit margins"[440] compelling them to close their doors because they were relying on Facebook to share content.

Net neutrality[edit]

"Free Basics" controversy in India[edit]

In February 2016, TRAI ruled against differential data pricing for limited services from mobile phone operators effectively ending zero-rating platforms in India. Zero rating provides access to a limited number of websites for no charge to the end user. Net-neutrality supporters from India (SaveTheInternet.in) brought out the negative implications of the Facebook Free Basic program and spread awareness to the public.[441] Facebook's Free Basics program[442] was a collaboration with Reliance Communications to launch Free Basics in India. The TRAI ruling against differential pricing marked the end of Free Basics in India.[443]

Earlier, Facebook had spent US$44 million in advertising and it implored all of its Indian users to send an email to the Telecom Regulatory Authority to support its program.[444] TRAI later asked Facebook to provide specific responses from the supporters of Free Basics.[445][446]

Treatment of potential competitors[edit]

In December 2018 details on Facebook's behavior against competitors surfaced. The UK parliament member Damian Collins released files from a court ruling between Six4Three and Facebook. According to those files, the social media company Twitter released its app Vine in 2013. Facebook blocked Vine's Access to its data.[447]

In July 2020, Facebook along with other tech giants Apple, Amazon and Google were accused of maintaining harmful power and anti-competitive strategies to quash potential competitors in the market.[448] The CEOs of respective firms appeared in a teleconference on July 29, 2020, before the lawmakers of the United States Congress.[449]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]