I and, no doubt, one-third of the world are active Facebook users. Yes sir, the figure is an astounding 2 billion people. That is the power and magic that Facebook has been able to weave since its inception in 2004 by a maverick dropout genius called Mark Zuckerberg. This platform indeed is mystical in the way that it has grown and connected most of the world. Facebook, no doubt, is a monopoly. It has no real competitors. It is an open platform for all ideas and voices from around the world. That is the very reason for its rapid growth and dominance. The other thing is that the platform is free for all so that everyone can use it. The majority of the revenue that Facebook earns is for advertisements that are micro-targeted to its unique audience. Over a period of time, Facebook began to collect user data like your birthdays, anniversaries, contact details, your likes and dislikes. The entire consumer behaviour and psychological profile are tracked and taped once you are logged into the platform. Mark Zuckerberg is now being grilled by the US Senate and holding his company accountable for letting Cambridge Data Analytics steal the user data of 87 million American users in the biggest data breach in US history. Issues were raised and Mark was questioned by the US Congress on the two main issues: one of the right to privacy and the other of false propaganda which we call false news.
But I most enjoyed when Senator Kennedy cross-questioned him. “I come to you in peace but let me lay it out to you. Your user agreement sucks and your digital utopia had got mind files in them.” Kennedy was acute and bombastic without being offensive. Mark Zuckerberg looked in control and kept his composure intact throughout this session. Senator Kennedy asked Facebook to go back and rewrite its user agreement and get rid of the false news issue. “Fix those bugs. I know you can do it because you are a pretty smart guy, who has indeed built a big American company.” He was appreciative of the fact that Facebook was a unique social media success story. I watched with fascination how issues of the selling of unprescribed illegal drugs, hate speech against minorities and other prominent misuses of the platform were also issues taken up at the congress hearing of Mark Zuckerberg. To me, it looked like the Nuremberg Trial where the Nazis were put on trial for their war crimes by the US and the Russian forces. About 24 Nazi officials, industrialists and army men were hanged at the end of the trial. To me, it looked like that kind of a scene. Mark was being hanged for this huge data breach by a bunch of old congressmen who knew nothing about technology or social media. Now with so many apps that are being developed, it’s easy than ever to steal and replicate data of users. There are safeguards though. Every time you give information to a social media site, you do that voluntarily. You are asked if you want to share your webpage, content and IP data with the various platforms. The consumer has that right and he can delete or not share his information with everyone or anyone. But the charge that was put on Facebook was that they follow the users even after he or she has logged off Facebook and closed the account. One black congressman asked, “Mark, how is Facebook any different than J. Edgar Hoover who spied on the private lives of his citizens when he was the helm of the American FBI.” The Congress wants to now pass bills to control and litigate Facebook as it thinks that Facebook has become a very powerful tool that can influence public opinion and also manipulate elections in various countries.