Social media monoliths Facebook (aka Fakebook) and Twitter have had massive reputational collapses, according to a new Axios Harris Poll 100. It seems that 2018 was the year that even the hardcore pajama people came to recognize the problematic nature of Fakebook.
Between 2018 and 2019, Fakebook’s reputation fell 43 places, according to the survey, which polled a nationally representative sample of 18,228 Americans between Jan. 2nd and 18th. Axios rated America’s largest companies on nine subcategories: affinity, ethics, growth, products/service, citizenship, vision, culture, character and trajectory.
Fakebook was the No. 1 plunger this year, falling to position No. 94 from No. 51. Fakebook ranked No. 95 in culture and citizenship, and No. 96 in trust and ethics. Twitter ranked No. 93 in ethics and No. 89 overall. This is near the bottom of the list, in the ignominious territory, with Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, both of which are embroiled in festering and costly scandals; and Sears, which is bankrupt.
From Fakebook’s cooperation with Cambridge Analytica — a data firm used by President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign to target voters, that used 87 million users’ personal information without obtaining proper consent – and its growing reputation for censorship and capture by usual suspects — it was a bad year reputation-wise.
All the FAANGs are being knocked off their perches over privacy concerns. At the core of this year’s Axios poll, 69% of Americans believe companies should be addressing data privacy, but only 17% feel they are making an impact. Not surprisingly, this is the biggest issue driving Fakebook’s decline, with only 15% of American’s agreeing that Fakebook “securely protects its customers personal information and data.” Also scoring low on data protection: Google ranked 37% and Apple: 35%.
In December 2018, it was revealed that Fakebook had, during the period of 2010 to 2018, granted access to users’ private messages, address book contents and private posts without users’ consent. It sold and/or provided the data to more than 150 third parties, including Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo, Netflix and Spotify. This had been occurring despite public statements from Fakebook that it had stopped such sharing years earlier.
Among Americans surveyed, 80% said that social networks are creating an identity crisis in young adults and 67% said that technology is having a negative impact on social values –– even nearly half of tech-loving Millennials (47%) said so.
Younger people also resist the “fixed self” they inhabit on Facebook, which includes biographical information and real names, according to research.
Around 20% of divorce petitions included some kind of reference to Facebook, according to a 2009 survey in the U.K. Fakebook has given us a new platform for interpersonal communication. Researchers proposed that high levels of Fakebook use could result in Fakebook-related conflict and breakup/divorce. 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.
Fakebook Posers: Performative surveillance is the notion that people are very much aware that they are being surveilled on Fakebook, and use the surveillance as an opportunity to portray themselves in a way that connotes a certain exaggerated and phony lifestyle — a distortion of how they are perceived in reality.
Fakebook Truman Show: Fakebook has been criticized for making people envious and unhappy due to the constant exposure to positive yet unrepresentative highlights of their peers’ lives. 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 reality that most users of Fakebook usually only display the positive pseudo-happy aspects of their lives while excluding the negative. Effectively, whole generations are being trained and acclimated as liars.
Fakebook encourages stupid, drunk or thoughtless behavior among impressionable youth — you know, the stuff you come to regret later as an adult. The Journal of Education for Business states that “a recent study of 200 Facebook profiles found that 42% had comments regarding alcohol, 53% had photos involving alcohol use, 20% had comments regarding sexual activities and 25% had semi-nude or sexually provocative photos. It is inferred that negative or incriminating Facebook posts can affect alumni and potential employers’ perception of them.
Besides trust, the issue of discord and polarization is cited. It has become a theater of false dialectic feuding and political shit-storming.
With forced delays, suggestions of merely “disabling” one’s account temporarily and frightening dialog boxes, the company makes it incredibly difficult for users to delete profiles and histories. Many users, even if wary off the site, still choose to keep a profile active “just in case.”
Edison Research and Triton Digital produce the comprehensive and well-regarded Infinite Dial study that probes how Americans use social media, audio services and other technology. Fakebook saw a decline in usage from 67% of Americans ages 12 and older to 62% of that same audience, according to Edison and Triton’s survey of 2,000 randomly selected persons.
Fakebook has an estimated 15 million fewer U.S. users today than it did in 2017. Overall, the company claims to have 2.27 billion users.
PlainSite, an independent research shop, calculated that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been regularly lying to investors and the public about the company’s user metrics to hike ad rates, and that the company could be overestimating the number of users by as much as 50%.
The team detailed their findings in a 70-page report published on their website.
Facebook has been lying to the public about the scale of its problem with fake accounts, which likely exceed 50% of its network. Its official metrics — many of which it has stopped reporting quarterly — are self-contradictory and even farcical. The company has lost control of its own product.
Facebook’s fraudulent numbers hurt its customers (advertisers) by overstating the effectiveness of Facebook’s product, Plainsite said.
- Fake accounts affect Facebook at its core in numerous ways.
- Its customers purchase advertising on Facebook based on the fact that it can supposedly target advertisements at more than 2 billion real human beings. To the extent that users aren’t real, companies are throwing their money down the drain.
- Fake accounts click on advertising at random, or “like” pages, to throw off anti-fraud algorithms. Fake accounts look real if they do not follow a clear pattern. This kind of activity defrauds advertisers, but rewards Facebook with revenue.
- Fake accounts often defraud other users on Facebook, through scams, fake news, extortion and other forms of deception. Often, they can involve governments.
On Dec. 26, 2018, New York Magazine published an article by Max Read called “How Much of the Internet Is Fake? It Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually.” According to Read, “Not even Facebook, the world’s greatest data–gathering organization, seems able to produce genuine figures.”
In October, small advertisers filed suit against the social media giant, accusing it of covering up, for a year, its significant overstatements of the time users spent watching videos on the platform (by 60 to 80%, Facebook says; by 150 to 900%, plaintiffs say).
During the past two years, “Facebook has admitted to misreporting the reach of posts on Facebook Pages (in two different ways), the rate at which viewers complete ad videos, the average time spent reading its “Instant Articles,” the amount of referral traffic from Facebook to external websites, the number of views that videos received via Facebook’s mobile site, and the number of video views in Instant Articles,” according to an exhaustive list at MarketingLand.
Ellen Pao, a former venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, as well as former CEO of Reddit, agreed. On her Twitter account, Pao wrote, “It’s all true: Everything is fake. Also mobile user counts are fake. No one has figured out how to count logged-out mobile users, as I learned at Reddit. Every time someone switches cell towers, it looks like another user and inflates company user metrics, and if an unlogged-in user uses the site on multiple devices, each device counts as a unique user.”
The New Republic published an article titled “The Bot Bubble” by Doug Bock Clark. The article spells out how click farms in the Philippines would go about registering “thousands of additional SIM cards … taped into bricks and stored under chairs, on top of computers, and in old instant noodle boxes around the room” in order to create fake Facebook accounts by the thousands. A single click farm profiled in the article employed 17 people each registering 150 fake accounts per day, or 2,550 fake accounts per day in total. These accounts could then be sold to whomever wanted to buy them.”
Today, a search of the phrase “buy Facebook accounts” on any popular search engine returns thousands of results, such as the websites https://fbaccs.com and https://pvafb.com (both with their own SSL certificates). These sites — and hundreds, if not thousands, of others — offer ready-made Facebook accounts set up by enterprising merchants around the world for only a few dollars per account. Some of them are “aged” to give the appearance of legitimacy, while others are verified by e-mail and/or SMS message to convince Facebook that a real person is behind them. In fact, as The New Republic illustrated, one real person could be behind 10,000 accounts.
Reports of Facebook’s poor reporting about fake accounts have been scattered over the years and ignored by the mainstream press. After each article or lawsuit, the company has made some effort to address the specific problem mentioned, but the media has missed the forest for the trees, often repeating the company’s claim of having 2.25 billion active users, or nearly a third of the world’s population.
Frankly, how is one-third of the population even remotely possible? And even if their reach is high, how many are using this clunky site actively?
Facebook has already disclosed that since Q4 2017, as a conservative estimate, it has deleted 2.841 billion fake accounts on a network purporting to have 2.271 billion current MAUs.
The spate of negative press has made aspiring software engineers re-think whether they want to be associated with a company so many suddenly revile. Employees already working at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters are questioning their life choices.
According to CNBC, “Several former employees likened the culture to a ‘cult’” where “employees are discouraged from voicing dissent — in direct contradiction to one of Sandberg’s mantras, ‘authentic self.’”
Whistleblowers working with outlets like Project Veritas are becoming common-place.
With the advent of integrated laptop and smartphone cameras, it’s trivially easy for scam artists to con people, almost always men, to voluntarily hand over video footage of sexual acts that can be used for sex-tortion. The victim of the scam does not realize that their partner (usually males posing as hot women) on the other end of the internet is actually a thief until too late; and by that point, a demand for money has usually already been made. Since many of the perpetrators of these scams reside across international boundaries, it’s nearly impossible for law enforcement to take corrective action.
Winter Watch’s experience with Fakebook often feels like the “Truman Show.” Many comments look low brow and algo-like. Although once in awhile we see possible organic traffic surges, more often than not we look throttled back. I actually think they have sophisticated algos that works as slowly boiling the frogs (dissenters). The posting function sometimes mysteriously “breaks,” (a penalty box or timeout) and then is later restored. It doesn’t quite look like they want to ban us. It’s more about keeping us engaged and then screwing with us.
But it is not just Fakebook. We are incessantly gamed on numerous fronts. We are shadow banned on Twitter. Here is our e-mail subscriber notice for our own publication. We send no unsolicited notices. You have to subscribe to receive an email, and even then it’s merely a note letting the reader know that a new post was published (see bottom of main page).
Winter Watch Takeaway: Fakebook has been a roller-coaster ride for its investors over the last year. Even so, it still has an inflated $484 billion market cap. As this Ponzi scheme finally unravels, those holders will be given a final indignity: huge financial losses.