Is Facebook’s Business Model Ethically Challenged and Troublesome?

Media / Marketing

Nov 15

A recent article in the Financial Post by American-Canadian journalist Diane Francis called out Facebook’s business model and termed it ‘ethically challenged’ and ‘troublesome’ while also stating there was nothing to like about it.

The article recommended that the U.S and Canada should follow Europe in curbing Facebook’s bad practices and protect the privacy of its citizens.

In the article, Francis wrote that Facebook’s chief executive officer and creator, Mark Zuckerberg, flipped from his stance a year ago that Facebook was not manipulated during the 2016 U.S. presidential election due to criticism and leaks.

Zuckerberg recently gave a statement that he cared about the democratic process and protecting its integrity and pledged that in the future would disclose the identity of entities and individuals who bought political advertisements.

“Facebook’s mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together. Those are deeply democratic values and we’re proud of them. I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That’s not what we stand for.” Zuckerberg said in his press statement.

The article also pointed out that there were other ethical and legal questions that surrounded Facebook.

“The fact is that Facebook’s underlying business model itself is troublesome: offer free services, collect user’s private information, then monetize that information by selling it to advertisers or other entities,” the article said.

Francis’ article also dealt with the current troubling topic of fake news or false news which is a practice that has found many critics in the recent past.

“Earlier this year, Facebook blocked fake accounts in Germany and France following pressure from the governments of the two countries. Such accounts are essential “bots” that are manipulated by unknown entities and should have been routinely culled, but haven’t been,” the article said.

A pitch made by Facebook to advertisers, which reportedly said it could identify teenagers who felt “insecure”, “worthless” and who “need a confidence boost”, was leaked to an Australian newspaper. This would be a major breach of privacy, not to mention being downright immoral to use a person’s Facebook data to sell them anti-depressants or acne medication. Apart from being used to sell products the information could land in worse hands and could even be used by terrorists to identify vulnerable teenagers.

The issue of privacy is one that Facebook has grappled with right from the beginning. European countries have threatened to impose fines to prevent hate messages from being posted on Facebook pages and blocking pages that could potentially become dangerous. Countries like Spain have imposed fines on Facebook for various ‘data breaches’ like collecting data without informing the user about the purpose.  However such data collection continues in the U.S. and Canada and other countries where human rights remain an issue.

Perhaps it is time to take a leaf out of the Europeans book of privacy and curb the unethical practices that could affect Facebook users.