Is it time to break Facebook?

The Catholic Church is the most successful institution in human history. In 2000 years, it had more than 1200 million faithfuls (customers). Google within 20 years has 2000 million customers and Facebook has 2300. These companies underneath their geeky and youthful look, are idols of a generation, just like Wall Street in the 80s. With business models that many considered ridiculous, where they offered free products (email, search engine, social networks), they were accumulating a huge amount of power, in a very discreet way. Possible because the power came in a previously unknown way, through collected data combined with a global reach and access to almost unlimited capital. Only now that alarm bells are starting to ring everywhere, due to the use and abuse of the power they have accumulated, is the majority of society starting to wake up. Are these organizations to blame? I don’t know, they got where they are a lot due to the lack of vision and short-term thinking of the rest of society. As my brother often says (from the Batman movies), “you either die a hero or you live long enough to become a villain”. And that is what is happening here.

What is the problem? These companies have understood, before almost everyone else, that data together with technology allow us to know our customers in detail and thus sell to them more and more often. If the sale of products may not seem relevant and is even considered a good commercial strategy, the problem starts when these platforms are used for issues such as manipulation of electoral results, discrimination, persecution, and attacks against various human rights.

What is to be done? It is not easy, the solution is not obvious. The main ways are legal since consumers don’t organize themselves. Governments are starting to intervene. France has just imposed revenue taxes on Tech companies to prevent revenue leakage to tax havens. Elizabeth Warren, one of the candidates to the presidency for the Democratic party in the USA, has as one of the main themes of her candidacy to divide these companies in several. Difficult, yes, especially considering that the areas that have seen the most investment growth in these companies is lobbying. Amazon, for example, is said to have more than 80 people in Washington for this activity. But not impossible if we think that something similar has already happened in the past to Microsoft.

Facebook is probably the first target. No one has any patience anymore for the “mistakes” they make, one after another, followed by false apologies with no associated actions. Mark Zuckerberg’s published comments about privacy last week were met with total incredulity, and his number two, Sheryl Sandberg, gave a conference at DLD, where I attended, that besides being boring, was totally demagogic.

There is one part that should deserve our attention, because some negative evaluation comes from other companies that can no longer compete with the companies I mention in this article. Mostly through their own fault and lack of ability to innovate and adapt. These technology companies have not only brought negative themes. The world is a more connected place, productivity has increased and many of the tools are used daily for “good”.

It is not clear, 15 years later, whether the world would be better or worse without Facebook. Nor is it important. These companies are not going to disappear. We must understand the real impact of these organizations in a transparent way and deal with them in the best way for the benefit of society.

David Bernardo
David Bernardo
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