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Zuckerberg's power makes him impenetrable



Something must be done; a disturbing refrain from the company's own employees can be heard over and over in the thousands of pages of leaked Facebook documents.


Senior management, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, was made aware of the potential for real-world harm from Facebook's various platforms — such as amplifying hate speech, encouraging eating disorders in adolescents, and inciting violence — but did nothing about it, according to the documents.

 

When it comes to Zuckerberg, the 37-year-old founder who grew Facebook from a dorm room project to a nearly trillion-dollar company by following the mantra "move fast and break things," there is little, if anything, that is encouraging in the revelations. The fish is rotting from the head down, according to outraged activists, pundits, and lawmakers who are calling for Zuckerberg to be held accountable for his actions. Bringing Zuckerberg to account, on the other hand, is far more difficult said than done.

 

The social media giant, for its part, has reacted angrily to numerous reports that have been leaked to the media, claiming that they are inaccurate and misrepresent its research and actions. The CEO of Facebook attempted to reframe the infamous Facebook Papers as a "coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents in order to paint a false picture of our company" during the company's earnings call on Monday.

 

Shareholders who have no clout

 

Because of Facebook's tiered stock structure, it is virtually impossible for Zuckerberg to be fired. However, despite the fact that Zuckerberg owns less than half the company, the class of shares in which he invests has significantly more voting power than the common stock.

 

Essentially, this means that Zuckerberg controls a majority of the company's voting stock. It is unlikely that Zuckerberg would be defeated even if the entire board of directors and every shareholder banded together against him.

 

"He is a king, not a CEO," Yael Eisenstat, a former Facebook employee, said earlier this month in an interview with Time magazine.

 

Germany's parliament heard testimony from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who claimed that Zuckerberg has "unilateral control over 3 billion people" due to his powerful position as CEO of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp on Monday.

 

Furthermore, shareholders are unlikely to raise many issues in the first place. Despite its flaws, Facebook has provided them with tremendous benefits. Despite the fact that Facebook's stock has lagged behind tech rivals Apple and Google, the company's stock has increased by nearly 75% since October of this year.

 

"The Facebook Papers" are a series of stories being published on Friday by a group of 17 news organizations in the United States, which are based on a trove of hundreds of internal company documents included in SEC filings and redacted by Haugen's legal counsel and dubbed "The Facebook Papers." The redacted versions of the documents that were sent to Congress were reviewed by the consortium, which included CNN.

 

As scathing headlines about the Facebook Papers spread across the internet on Monday, Wall Street remained deafeningly silent. Following Facebook's earnings report, which revealed that the company had fallen short of analysts' sales expectations, the company's stock fell 4 percent on Tuesday, according to FactSet. An investor's only concern is with the dollar and the cents on the dollar.

 

As a result, legislators in Washington have been playing catch up, trying to regulate a company that has successfully avoided government oversight for years. In the House of Representatives, lawmakers have introduced a slew of bipartisan antitrust legislation aimed squarely at the technology industry. According to Haugen, however, Facebook's organizational structure is unique among technology companies.

 

Earlier this month, Haugen testified before Congress that "at other large technology companies, such as Google, any independent researcher can download the company's search results from the Internet and write papers about what they discover." The company, on the other hand, hides behind walls that prevent researchers and regulators from getting a full understanding of their system's true dynamics.

 

This means that even if Congress weren't hampered by internal squabbling, it would be difficult to resolve the issue.

 

Antitrust is also a topic that moves slowly. An earlier version of this summer's article stated that a federal judge dismissed the Federal Trade Commission's case against Facebook because of a lack of evidence. The Federal Trade Commission re-filed its case, and Facebook filed another motion to dismiss earlier this month.

 

Some have proposed the creation of an entirely new regulatory body that would be solely responsible for the oversight of technology giants.

 

According to former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, "Digital companies complain (with some justification) that current regulations' rigid rules are incompatible with rapid technological advancements." According to the authors, "Supervision of digital platforms should not be a secondary consideration for an existing agency; it should be a full-time, specialized focus."

 

In the past, several tech leaders, including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, have expressed interest in the concept. When presented with a hypothetical situation, it is natural to respond affirmatively. And not everyone is on the same page.

 

As Senator Richard Blumenthal explained on CNN's "Reliable Sources" program Sunday, while Facebook may support external regulation, "it is also fighting it tooth and nail, day and night, with armies of lawyers and millions of dollars in lobbying," he said. "Facebook's claim that it wants to be regulated is the height of deception," says the author.

 

Advertisers can't afford to leave

 

While large advertisers could gain positive publicity by boycotting the site, it is unlikely that such a move would have a significant impact on Facebook's bottom line. The reason for this is that the vast majority of Facebook's advertising revenue comes from small businesses that cannot afford to discontinue use of the platform.

 

As part of the #StopHateforProfit campaign, hundreds of household name brands announced that they would boycott the platform in the summer of 2020 because of its handling of hate speech. However, the stock price of Facebook as well as its advertising revenue have continued to rise since then.

 

During just the third quarter of this year, Facebook generated more than $28 billion in advertising revenue. This represents a 33 percent increase over the previous year.

 

The Facebook Papers provide some of the most compelling evidence to date that Facebook is directly responsible for real, tangible harm. The Facebook Papers are available here. And, to make matters worse, it has been completely oblivious to the consequences for years.

 

This scandal, more than any other that the company has endured, has the appearance of being a watershed moment. This scandal, on the other hand, will not be resolved quickly or easily.

 

It appears from the whistleblower's documents that some employees, including Haugen, have legitimate concerns — and that multiple whistleblowers are coming forward in order to maintain pressure on the corporation. However, it is unclear whether this will be sufficient on its own.

 

Washington will not be able to resolve the regulatory issues overnight, and Wall Street will not be willing to give up on its money-making machine either. The three billion people who use Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook are unlikely to deactivate the apps out of principle, which is noteworthy. For many, those applications have evolved into indispensable communication tools, with the internet itself becoming synonymous with them.

 

As part of its ongoing efforts to spin its own narrative and minimize critics, the company may even attempt to resolve issues in the interim. Nonetheless, given Facebook's massive size — and the company's track record of avoiding regulation while enriching shareholders — a full accounting appears highly unlikely. 

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