When The Social Network was released back in 2010, it could afford to paint Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook as almost a tragic story permeated with the irony of people who were looking for human connection to create a great social network at the cost of their personal relationships. While David Fincher’s film is still essential and worth watching, any portrait of Zuckerberg today would have to paint him as a clearly duplicitous villain who clearly doesn’t have the intelligence or the interest in responsibly managing his powerful platform.
The need to regulate Facebook became clear again this weekend as the social networking giant received a $40 million slap on the wrist for lying about video metrics. That $40 million settlement (so Facebook doesn’t have to admit wrongdoing) accounts for 0.18% of Facebook’s annual revenue, so it would be charitable to call this penalty a rounding error let alone something that would deter the company from this kind of behavior in the future.
Why does this behavior matter? Per THR, the lawsuit alleges that “The average viewership metrics were not inflated by only 60%-80%; they were inflated by some 150 to 900%,” and this bad data caused companies to “pivot to video”, which led to the layoff of writers in favor of video production, and then that video production never led to the ad revenue that sites were hoping for. However, Facebook got exactly what it wanted, which was more videos on its platform because while videos don’t make sense for everyone, they made sense for Facebook’s business model.
There are a myriad of problems with Facebook, like how they and Google suck up all the ad revenue, but also how they can lie without repercussions. They’ve taken what are the seeds of good ideas and transformed them into these behemoths that distort reality and profit off chaos. The big problem is that without regulation, we also have to depend on them. It’s not like Collider is going to shut down its Facebook page, but if a new site popped up tomorrow that allowed us to have a “fan” page without all the toxicity Facebook brings with it, we’d move. There’s nothing “special” about Facebook. They’re just currently the biggest social network, and until government regulators step in to make Facebook act responsibility, the company will just move from settlement to settlement with a trail of devastation in its wake. In other words, if anyone ever makes The Social Network 2, it will be a horror film.