The social media firm set aside $3bn to deal with an expected US Federal Trade Commission fine, which could eventually amount to $5bn. But the controversies have had little impact on the tech behemoth’s bottom line.
Facebook has set aside $3bn dollars in anticipation of a fine by the US Federal Trade Commission over concerns that it violated user privacy.
The eventual fine could be as high as $5bn but that didn’t stop shares from rising nine percent after the day’s trading on Wednesday.
The fine centres around a 2011 agreement between the FTC and Facebook, in which the corporation agreed to make clear how customer data would be stored, establish a programme to protect customer privacy, and establish clear customer consent before overriding existing privacy rules.
Facebook is no stranger to controversy, with seemingly not a month passing by without a major controversy.
Here we take a look at some of those controversies.
Cambridge Analytica scandal
In March 2018, whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed that a shadowy political consulting firm called Cambridge Analytica, was harvesting Facebook user data by exploiting a loophole in the way the social network stored its information.
Around 50 million users had their information accessed but instead of informing them, Facebook failed to tell them their privacy had been violated.
Cambridge Analytica used the information it collected to create micro-targeted adverts in order to sway Facebook users towards its preferred political partners, including during the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit referendum of the same year.
The adverts included fake news, scaremongering, and exploitation of sexual scandals.
Russian influence campaigns
It wasn’t just Cambridge Analytica using Facebook to influence political outcomes, but also governments, including Russia’s.
Moscow’s agents are believed to have exploited Facebook’s advertising system to target specific demographics with fake or misleading news, in a bid to get their preferred candidate, Donald Trump, elected.
Facebook’s advertising tools, allowed those behind the campaign to target users based on race and geography. In some instances, African-Americans who traditionally vote Democrat, were targeted with adverts encouraging them to boycott the vote.
Just before the 2018 US midterm elections, Facebook CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg, said 100 suspected Russian agents were removed from the platform over suspicions that they were planning to interfere in the vote.
Buddhist extremists use platform to spread hate in Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan government banned Facebook in March 2018 in an attempt to quell anti-Muslim riots, which were being fuelled in part by fake news spread by Facebook users.
“On my instructions, my secretary has discussed with officials of Facebook, who have agreed that its platform will not be used for spreading hate speech and inciting violence,” Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena said at the time.
But it didn’t end there. After the recent terrorist outrage in Sri Lanka, which killed at least 359 people, Facebook’s algorithms pushed anti-Islamic comments prominently.
Used to aid in the genocide of Rohingya
In late 2018, the UN condemned Facebook for providing a platform to those inciting genocide in Myanmar.
Just as in Sri Lanka, Buddhist extremists and Myanmar’s military used the social network to spread fake news and incite hatred towards Rohingya Muslims, with devastating effect.
A Reuters investigation found more than 1,000 incidences of posts in Burmese attacking Rohingyas and Muslims generally. With some posts not removed for years.
Stories included fake news about the rape of Buddhist woman by Muslim man, which resulted in deadly riots targeting Muslims.
Facebook says it is hiring more Burmese language moderators but the numbers are still low, with just 60 Burmese speaking employees covering a country with more than nine million users.
The social network also banned several Myanmar’s military leaders and popular Burmese language pages for their role in spreading incitement.