February 4, 2004: Mark Zuckerberg Founds Facebook









WHAT HAPPENED?


Facebook was pushed live on February 4, 2004, by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg with the help of some Harvard classmates and roommates.


Initially, it was created just as a social platform for students at Harvard, but expanded throughout Ivy League schools quickly. Eventually, it expanded to other universities, high schools, and anyone in the world above the age of 13.


Facebook was created as a way to connect with friends. The platform used to be full of updates from friends, photos of families, "becoming a fan of" random things, posting on walls and over sharing your entire life story.


But what once was a hub for keeping up with friends and family has now become a cesspool of uninformed political articles and memes, arguments between literally everyone and the constant fear of your data being shared or your conversations being listened to. Additionally, at the tail end of 2018 and beginning of 2019, it was revealed that 3 billion fake accounts were found, so it is not even known how many users Facebook actually has.


Facebook has been criticized and under fire for many controversial topics, including but not limited to privacy breaches, propelling fake news, political manipulation and negative psychological affects.


Despite what sometimes seems like apology after apology, Facebook still remains one of the most popular social networks, maintaining its spot as the most downloaded mobile app from 2010 to 2019.


BREACHES OF PRIVACY


Facebook has been dealing with issues of privacy for over a decade. In 2010, the US National Security Agency began taking publicly posted profile information from Facebook.


In 2011, it was found that Facebook was deceiving its users with unkept promises regarding privacy and settled charges with the Federal Trade Commission.


In 2013, a study was published showing that links being shared between friends over Facebook Messenger were being viewed by Facebook, and in 2014, 2 users filed a suit saying that it had violated their privacy.


In 2018, Facebook announced that a bug had resulted in 14 million private profiles being set to public without their consent.


In 2019, half of a billion records of Facebook users, including friends, "likes", groups, locations where the user had checked in, names, passwords and email addresses, were found exposed on an Amazon cloud server.


But beyond the problematic privacy breaches of website users, people who don't even have a Facebook account can become subject to similar breaches simply by "liking" an article that has a Facebook plug-in on a 3rd party website. They can collect information about an individual through their involvement on sites that they don't even own.


While Facebook users are not able to opt out of their data being shared, they can at least download and inspect the data that they are providing to the site, but their "shadow profile", or the information that is gathered off of Facebook, isn't accessible.


Facebook also sold over 87 million users' information to Cambridge Analytica, a political data analysis firm. They eventually issued a statement suspending their relationship, but interviews revealed that they still had access to the data.


Beyond this, Facebook had a breach in 2018 exposing the data of 50 million users, a password compromise in 2019 for millions of Facebook and Instagram users, and a database of more than 267 million user IDs, phone numbers and names were left available on the web for anyone to see.


Oh, and Facebook also admitted to transcribing user audio and voice messages in Facebook Messenger, but stated that the program has been suspended.


Happy Facebooking!


ISSUES WITH CONTENT


"Fake news" is a problem all across social media, but nowhere as evidently as on Facebook. The site has been seen as a "vector" for fake news and has been accused of bearing responsibility for many conspiracy theories, such as the U.S. creating ISIS or that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax.


Though Facebook is merely a medium for other people to share their bananas thoughts, there is no way to flag articles or information that are proven false, leading to an extremely problematic public discourse. They have, many times, tried to amend content policies to account for fact checking, but it is still all too easy to stumble on an article filled to the brim with nothing but falsehoods disguised as real, credible information.


Facebook has been heavily criticized for providing a platform for InfoWars to publish obvious lies and unbelievable conspiracy theories, though they initially defended them by saying that banning their page wasn't the solve.


InfoWars posted a piece that insinuated that the Parkland shooting victims and bystanders were actors, which again riled up arguments to suspend the page, but Facebook left it up saying that they didn't explicitly call them "actors".


However, in 2018, InfoWars founder Alex Jones and 4 of the most popular InfoWars-related pages were banned.


NEGATIVE EMOTIONAL HEALTH


All social networks are shown to have both negative and positive impacts on their users emotional health. For instance, Facebook has been shown to make people more empathetic, and to help people who struggle with their social skills to become more social.


But along with the pros, there are some serious cons to users' emotional health. Facebook has been tied to envy and jealousy, often tied to user photos of vacations, families, positive life events and physical beauty.


A study showed that 1 out of every 3 people felt more dissatisfied with their own lives after getting on Facebook, and another study demonstrated that college students felt worse about themselves in general after spending more time using Facebook.


Teenagers were found to be more narcissistic with increased Facebook use, where young adults could be seen being more antisocial.



Facebook certainly has its good and bad aspects, with its bad aspects highlighted more prominently here. When it was created 16 years ago today, the intent likely wasn't to sell data and mislead millions of people with deceiving articles, it was to create a community and connect people together - a goal it still largely is able to accomplish now.


REFERENCES:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook#Criticisms_and_controversies

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