How to fix Facebook: An appeal to Mark Zuckerberg

New Delhi, IndiaWritten By: Ankit TutejaUpdated: Sep 21, 2020, 04:35 PM IST

Zuckerberg reportedly instructed staff internally earlier this month to be ready to face the biggest turndown they’ve seen in history. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Over the last few years, the social network giant has been slammed for violating user privacy, fuelling hate, and spreading disinformation.

Think about a child who constantly makes mistakes, he is told to never steal, he is told to not lie, people explain to him that the use of foul language is not acceptable. For a moment, it looks like he is listening to you. He nods, apologies and promises to not repeat the actions again, but nothing has changed. The child continues to do indulge in all the objectionable acts, repeatedly.

Facebook is like that child in question. Over the last few years, the social network giant has been slammed for violating user privacy, fuelling hate, and spreading disinformation. The list of wrongdoings is extensive.

I don't want to get into the charges pressed against the world’s biggest social network, because all the scandals and controversies are out there for you to see. Instead, I am going to talk about the three things that Facebook needs to fix as soon as possible to win back the trust of users. It's a video appeal to Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive officer of Facebook.

1. Facebook has been on an apology tour for a long time. For every mistake or fiasco that has been reported, Facebook has mostly reacted with the same answer, “We apologise”.

A random Google search with the words “Facebook apologises” gives you over 10 million results. No, I don’t mean to say that Facebook has apologised this many times, but what I am trying to highlight is that the log of Facebook wrongdoings is pretty long and endless. And not much seems to be changing. Zuckerberg needs to re-learn that apologies are good only if they are sincere. They need to come with a promise to do better.

For instance, Zuckerberg claims that Facebook has teamed up with civil rights groups and experts to develop more tools to fight hate speech. Those groups and experts, however, say Facebook isn’t committed or at least, the commitment in not translating into action. Zuckerberg should understand that when you apologise, you make amends and rebuild trust. And most importantly, you make sincere efforts to avoid mistakes from happening again.

2. Secondly, I am all up for new-age technologies, but when it comes to tackling sensitive issues like suicide, self-injury and child exploitation, human intervention becomes very important. So here's another suggestion for Zuckerberg. You should increase your pool of human reviewers to tackle sensitive issues, on priority. I mean, algorithms and artificial intelligence can never be as good as human content reviewers in determining, let's say, how dangerous a hate speech can be. Instead of looking at new acquisitions, Facebook should spend more money on hiring content reviewers who are well-versed with diverse cultures.

3. All of us understand that data is the new currency and Facebook makes billions of dollars from our data. Your data is used to serve you ads that you see on Facebook. And who makes all the money? Facebook.

In 2019, Facebook’s ad revenue was close to $70 billion. In the second quarter of this year alone, Facebook earned $18.3 billion in advertising revenue. So, if you think you’re getting to use Facebook for free, that’s not how it is. There are no free lunches.

Many people understand this and they don’t want their data to be harvested and used by Facebook or any other corporation, for that matter. I think, Zuckerberg should take this issue seriously. He should introduce paid accounts for such people and charge a monthly or annual fee. The company needs to give this option to users in times when data privacy is a matter of huge concern.

I hope Zuckerberg takes it as constructive feedback. All of us like using Facebook, but there is no denying that these issues need to be fixed on on priority.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)