It's always good for consumers -- and customers -- to know a company's positions on key issues. Thanks to The Verge, we now know more about Facebook's views. Portions of the leaked transcripts included statements by Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, during internal business meetings. The Verge explained the transcripts:
"In two July meetings, Zuckerberg rallied his employees against critics, competitors, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, among others..."
Portions of statements by Mr. Zuckerberg included:
"I’m certainly more worried that someone is going to try to break up our company... So there might be a political movement where people are angry at the tech companies or are worried about concentration or worried about different issues and worried that they’re not being handled well. That doesn’t mean that, even if there’s anger and that you have someone like Elizabeth Warren who thinks that the right answer is to break up the companies... I mean, if she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge... breaking up these companies, whether it’s Facebook or Google or Amazon, is not actually going to solve the issues. And, you know, it doesn’t make election interference less likely. It makes it more likely because now the companies can’t coordinate and work together. It doesn’t make any of the hate speech or issues like that less likely. It makes it more likely..."
An October 1st post by Mr. Zuckerberg confirmed the transcripts. Earlier this year, Mr. Zuckerberg called for more government regulation. Given his latest comments, we now know his true views.
Also, C/Net reported:
"In an interview with the Today show that aired Wednesday, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said he generally agrees with the comments Zuckerberg made during the meetings, adding that the company's large size can help it tackle issues like hate speech and election interference on social media."
The claim by Mosseri, Zuckerberg and others that their company needs to be even bigger to tackle issues is frankly -- laughable. Consumers are concerned about several different issues: privacy, hacked and/or cloned social media accounts, costs, consumer choice, surveillance, data collection we can't opt out of, the inability to delete Facebook and other mobile apps, and elections interference. A recent study found that consumers want social sites to collect less data.
Industry consolidation and monopolies/oligopolies usually result with reduced consumer choices and higher prices. Prior studies have documented this. The lack of ISP competition in key markets meant consumers in the United States pay more for broadband and get slower speeds compared to other countries. At the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's "Privacy, Big Data, And Competition" hearing last year, the developers of the Brave web browser submitted this feedback:
""First, big tech companies “cross-use” user data from one part of their business to prop up others. This stifles competition, and hurts innovation and consumer choice. Brave suggests that FTC should investigate..."
Facebook is already huge, and its massive size still hasn't stopped multiple data breaches and privacy snafus. Rather, the snafus have demonstrated an inability (unwillingness?) by the company and its executives to effectively tackle and implement solutions to adequately and truly protect users' sensitive information. Mr. Zuckerberg has repeatedly apologized, but nothing ever seems to change. Given the statements in the transcripts, his apologies seem even less believable and less credible than before.
Alarmingly, Facebook has instead sought more ways to share users' sensitive data. In August of 2018, reports surfaced that Facebook approached several major banks and offered to share its detailed financial information about consumers in order, "to boost user engagement." Reportedly, the detailed financial information included debit/credit/prepaid card transactions and checking account balances. Also last year, Facebook's Onavo VPN App was removed from the Apple App store because the app violated data-collection policies. Not good.
Plus, the larger problem is this: Facebook isn't just a social network. It is also an advertiser, publishing platform, dating service, and wannabe payments service. There are several anti-trust investigations underway involving Facebook. Remember, Facebook tracks both users and non-users around the internet. So, claims about it needing to be bigger to solve problem are malarkey.
And, Mr. Zuckerberg's statements seem to mischaracterize Senator Warren's positions by conflating and ignoring (or minimizing) several issues. Here is what Senator Warren actually stated in March, 2019:
"America’s big tech companies provide valuable products but also wield enormous power over our digital lives. Nearly half of all e-commerce goes through Amazon. More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook. As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people... Weak antitrust enforcement has led to a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector. Venture capitalists are now hesitant to fund new startups to compete with these big tech companies because it’s so easy for the big companies to either snap up growing competitors or drive them out of business. The number of tech startups has slumped, there are fewer high-growth young firms typical of the tech industry, and first financing rounds for tech startups have declined 22% since 2012... To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies..."
Senator Warren listed several examples:
"Using Mergers to Limit Competition: Facebook has purchased potential competitors Instagram and WhatsApp. Amazon has used its immense market power to force smaller competitors like Diapers.com to sell at a discounted rate. Google has snapped up the mapping company Waze and the ad company DoubleClick... Using Proprietary Marketplaces to Limit Competition: Many big tech companies own a marketplace — where buyers and sellers transact — while also participating on the marketplace. This can create a conflict of interest that undermines competition. Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp."
Mr. Zuckerberg would be credible if he addressed each of these examples. In the transcript from The Verge, he didn't.
And, there is plenty of blame to spread around on executives in both tech companies and anti-trust regulators in government. Readers wanting to learn more can read about hijacked product pages and other chaos among sellers on the Amazon platform. There's plenty to fault tech companies for, and it isn't a political attack.
Plenty of operational failures, data security failures, and willful sharing of consumers' data collected. What are your opinions of the transcript?