Within the past few years, Facebook has come under fire for the increased throttling of both personal accounts and business pages. Gone are the days of promoting content as a freelancer or small business owner, as current policies disallow using their platform to push content without buying ad “boosts.” When attempting to build an account or page for a business, most are left with a limited following.
The company has a stranglehold on how much content a page or personal account is allowed to “like,” comment on, or link to within certain timeframes. By building a Facebook page and using their algorithms to an advantage, individuals face being banned and losing the entire page they just created. This is detrimental to the very populace that enriched Facebook in the first place. Their current policies exploit regular users with forced newsfeed “ads,” and also require that small business owners purchase those ads to get any type of exposure. Therefore, both demographics are losing, as Facebook is squeezing every drop of revenue from both ends.
A recent article published by The Atlantic details a current Facebook newsfeed update which splits one’s news feed – essentially relegating page posts to their own sections. This new update has already adversely affected page interactions of newsrooms in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia. (1) Facebook assures that this new “feature” will not roll out for months worldwide, if ever. This attempt – no matter the extent of those impacted – only hurts the general public and the media, even if intentions were pure.
Silencing voices in an attempt to either increase profits or combat “fake news” isn’t acceptable. Facebook has made billions already off their platform and profits only continue increasing. It seems as if greed may be the only motivator, because none of the reasoning used for such changes makes any logical sense.
Being “banned” by Facebook occurs much more often following the 2016 US Presidential Election, after the revelation that the Russian government bought ads to sway American opinion on the credibility of Hillary Clinton. In combating fake accounts to eliminate foreign interference in the US election process, Facebook has employed a much more restrictive automatic flagging of accounts that “like” too many posts too fast, or are otherwise heavily active in a short amount of time. This results in the banning or suspension of regular users for things as innocent as “liking” ten pages in a day – which is the entire premise of Facebook. These automatic processes are often completed by AI, or “bots.”
Facebook is “employing” AI to do this work, despite having contractors at their corporate headquarters that aren’t paid well enough to afford housing. This is particularly poignant, considering Facebook is actively seeking even more revenue via the purchase of ads. Facebook corporate employees enjoy many lavish perks while some contractors live in cars or work three jobs. According to the Guardian, “The $500bn company has been conscientious about ensuring that its subcontracted workers are relatively well paid. In May 2015, amid a nationwide movement to raise the minimum wage, the company established a $15 an hour minimum for its contractors, as well as benefits like paid sick leave, vacation and a $4,000 new-child benefit.
But those wages only go so far in a region with out-of-control housing costs. San Francisco and San Jose ranked first and third in the nation a recent analysis of rents, with one-bedroom apartments in San Jose going for $2,378. The extreme cost of housing is why California has the highest poverty rate in the country, according to a US Census figure that takes into account a region’s cost of living.” (2)
Facebook was (and still is) revolutionary in many great ways. However, exploiting several different sects of people for the sake of even more profit illustrates an inherent American corporate problem – unbridled greed. We must hold them accountable, because this obvious obfuscation on their part is unfair to the people who made their company and brand what it is today. They need to understand that these policies will only negatively affect their long-term profits and user base. It would be no surprise to see an individual or group seize this moment to create an all-new social media platform, and many would likely flock to it. Facebook is orchestrating their own unraveling.