Facebook has no moral compass

facebook has no moral compass

By Mark Schaefer

What a nightmare for Facebook and its advertising partners. The Verge reported:

Facebook knew about inaccuracies in the video viewership metrics that it provided to advertisers and brands for more than a year, according to documents filed as part of a potential class action lawsuit on Tuesday. Advertisers were duped into focusing on the social network under the belief that people were spending more time watching on Facebook than through other video platforms. The inflated data also led many media organizations to put an emphasis on Facebook video and chase views to the detriment of other editorial efforts.

“Facebook’s internal efforts behind the scenes reflect a company mentality of reckless indifference toward the accuracy of its metrics,” the plaintiffs said in Tuesday’s filing.

(Facebook acknowledged that it has mis-stated the statistics but said the lawsuit is without merit).

The issue is further complicated by the way Facebook made public statements in 2015 promoting video as the future and then demoting videos in a 2018 algorithm change. Advertisers are furious.

When Facebook speaks, what can you believe?

It makes you wonder what is going on with this company. Over the past five years, they have violated so many ethical standards that it’s hard to even keep track of it.

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like Facebook has no moral compass.

Culture gets set at the top of the company so it is then fair to conclude that Mark Zuckerberg has no moral compass.

A different path

Tom Webster and I faced our own metrics crisis in 2016. When I made a change to the design of my website, downloads of The Marketing Companion podcast episodes dropped by one-third. We had no explanation for it. So I immediately hired two separate people to investigate and explain what happened.

We found that the old site has a “pre-roll” feature that buffered episodes so it was easier to listen to shows. But when the buffering occurred, it counted as a download, even if the person never listened to the show (we later learned this is a common practice podcasters use to inflate download numbers).

Our response was immediate. We fixed the technical problem and contacted our sponsors as soon as we knew what was going on. We explained the situation and offered a special deal to make them whole, since our numbers had been inflated. Our business partners were gracious and the problem was rapidly resolved.

It’s an easy solution

I’m not recounting this story to come across as heroic or special. There’s nothing special about it. It’s just the way you do business. It’s the normal way you handle problems and serve your customers.

Almost all of Facebook’s problems could be solved simply.

Just be normal.

Simply act how you’re supposed to act in the business world.

And it’s not just Facebook. There is a grotesque lack of business ethics in big tech. We had a similar headline from Google this week when they failed to disclose a major data breach involving hundreds of thousands of individuals because it would make them look bad.

It makes me sick when you think about the potential for good social media platforms had when this all started. It’s hard to be a social media fan when the web is becoming such a very dark cesspool. I hate that.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that several public funds with holdings in Facebook are backing a shareholder proposal to push out Mark Zuckerberg as chairman. Zuckerberg is too powerful and too stubborn to go down easily but I believe his removal is inevitable. Who invests in a company that can’t be trusted?

What’s your view?

Note: If you’re interested in a detailed analysis of Facebook’s fraud and how it impacted advertisers (or “users” in Facebook parlance), read this account from the Nieman Journalism Lab

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Unsplash.com

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