Can it be true that I’m referring to a social media platform as being too big to fail like we did the banks a few years ago?
Although Mark Zuckerberg and co continue to celebrate their success of almost 2bn users on its flagship platform the company has had much hassle in the press recently. It’s at the centre of debate over the live streaming of suicides as well as its role in policing fake news.
I saw an interview earlier this week on the BBC with Adam Gray of Digital Leadership Associates and as I watched I considered what would happen if Facebook failed. What if the content was deemed too divisive that the strictest forms of action meant the platform could no longer operate?
Personally I have quite a lot at stake in Facebook. I have hundreds of photographs that practically document the whole of the last ten years with my partner, the birth of my son and his first few years; all valuable memories.
I have almost 1000 friends on there, many of whom keep me up to date with activities in the local community, debates on subjects which I’m highly interested in and of course the occasional opinion on football matters. One of the most beautiful aspects has been the rekindling of past friendships, people from school and university with whom I’d have no other form of contact. In Messenger I’m part of several group conversations with friends which often accelerate mid-afternoon at work and offer some light relief from the pressure around.
Does Facebook have a responsibility for fake news?
You’ll have seen by now that Facebook has introduced its guidance to help users identify fake news. I find it interesting that the people shouting loudest about this are the journalists and media. As Adam says in his interview Facebook acts as a platform for users to have a voice which must be respected. That said, it is interesting to consider how far politicians and businesses are willing to go (or pay) in order to use Facebook to manipulate how it presents messages to an audience. How transparent can Facebook be around that?
As for the issues surrounding the controversial live videos, can more be done? Facebook would argue that it is doing everything possible and isn’t shying away from its responsibility. Indeed its own head of Suicide Prevention actually believes there are instances where Facebook Live actually acts as a lifeline for some people threatening suicide. The fear for many however is that new and novel ways of committing suicide in such a monumental fashion might influence other people to do the same.
I love Facebook and appreciate the value that it adds to my life and my community. However, it is worrying that one company has almost a monopoly on social media and communication. There are question marks around what this means in the wider world and perhaps what is important is that whilst Facebook provides transparency around the activity of so many other companies does the platform itself face the same interrogation?