Rigden Wienken, Opinion Writer
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has dominated recent headlines across countless media platforms. Due to a significant breach in user privacy, Zuckerberg was called to meet with Congress to discuss his role in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. So what exactly happened?
It’s no secret that Facebook sells user information and data to advertising companies so they can better target their interest group. In theory, this is beneficial to both the consumer, because they can get ads relevant to their interest, and to the producers, who ensure maximum profit for their companies. The problem arose after a college professor obtained an academic license for user information and research purposes and then far overstepped his agreement by collecting far more information from a much larger group than originally intended. Subsequently, he sold this information to a company called Cambridge Analytica. This company focuses heavily on influencing elections by targeting specific groups and what they see and read.
Not only did this violate Facebook’s terms of service, but potential ties with Russia election meddling and Cambridge Analytica are being investigated. Several Russian sources are accused of promoting current president Donald Trump unfairly, while simultaneously defaming Hillary Clinton. Zuckerberg’s failure to act brought him much criticism, both for the breach of user privacy and for the spread of Russian propaganda during the 2016 election. Overall, between 50 to 80 million people were estimated to have been affected by this.
There is a lot to learn from this. With over 2 billion users, Facebook is the largest social media platform on the internet and is extremely useful in the many services it provides. Facebook, unlike any other platform, allows for consistent and easy connection between individuals. The amount of information spread on Facebook is incomprehensible.
Overall, while Facebook’s negligence led to a major loss in security, the impact of the scandal is not nearly as significant as the media would like you to think. Most people simply scroll past the advertisements and other posts they don’t like anyways. Even though 50 to 80 million people were affected doesn’t mean this amount of people changed their vote from Clinton to Trump. Trump received over twice the media attention that Clinton did during the election, and let’s not forget Clinton’s infamous email scandal and what it did to her public image. Overall, the extreme dislike for both candidates would have triggered outrage no matter who was elected. Should Clinton have won, no doubt the country would be in a similar position with Clinton under attack for defamation crimes against Trump.
We can all ensure we avoid propaganda and misleading information by fact-checking and thinking critically. With the internet at our fingertips, we can research in-depth about anything we desire. However, reputable sources like news stations, government websites, and academic databases should be searched before we begin to form our opinions. Don’t forget, Facebook isn’t a news website, it’s a social media website. Only the truly ignorant are going to use Facebook as the foundation for their political views.