If you were hanging out on the internet back in the good old days of the early 2000s, you may have come across a budding social media site known as Facebook. It was initially created at Harvard University by student Mark Zuckerberg and limited by invite to those enrolled at certain institutions of higher learning. While it seemed rather harmless at first, history tells us that the company rapidly grew in size, becoming one of the most valuable operations on Earth. Its leader Zuckerberg also managed to become a supervillain that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1960’s James Bond film.
As Facebook grew its membership and became the de facto method of online interaction for hundreds of millions of people, the company was faced with a moral dilemma. It promised to put user safety at the forefront of its company policies, even though doing so was at direct odds with making the most amount of money possible. The social network has come under fire repeatedly over the years, with leadership always promising to do better for its end users and society as a whole.
Thanks to whistleblower Frances Haugen, we know that upper management at Facebook didn’t actually place much value in user safety and was fully aware of the damage being caused. Haugen first made headlines by filing complaints with the SEC in October and received another major rush of news coverage when a cache of internal company documents was released to the press that gave insights into the inner workings and decisions within the company. Haugen also sat in front of legislators in both the United States and the United Kingdom to give her accounts of company policy and actions.
Haugen put her career and personal safety on the line to stand up to one of the largest corporations in the world. Her actions have had an impact. The bad press continues to surround the social network so much that CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a rebranding from Facebook to Meta. How well the diversion works in the long run has yet to be seen, but the curtains have been pulled back on the social network and hopefully, positive changes can begin to proceed.
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