Mark Zuckerberg sums up a lot of the challenges Facebook has been confronted with this year in a new post he published today to his Facebook page that, after you read it, can almost make you feel like a lot of what the company has been dealing with lately is sort of your fault.
Facebook, according to its billionaire founder, is having to build systems and tools to fight misinformation that you’re not smart enough to avoid or see through yourself. The company is also having to significantly ramp up its investment on everything from content moderation to security because there’s, well, lots of bad people who keep trying to use Facebook to wreck Facebook.
“What I’ve learned so far is that when you build services that are used by billions of people across countries and cultures, you will see all of the good humanity is capable of, and people will try to abuse those services in every way possible,” Zuck writes. “It is our responsibility to amplify the good and mitigate the bad.”
Zuckerberg famously sets a personal challenge for himself each year, which in the past has included things like learning Mandarin but which this year is the much simpler-sounding but infinitely more complex task of fixing … Facebook. Which is another way of saying, when you really think about, fixing the things some of us either broke or are misusing.
There’s also an implied trade-off, Zuckerberg continues in his post today, to be found in this work. Many of the company’s hardest decisions mean having to weigh competing principles. Like, for example “giving people a voice is at the heart of our mission. But we also have a responsibility to keep people safe. Encryption increases privacy and security for individuals but makes it more difficult to fight misinformation and hate at scale. Requiring verification for ads and pages makes election interference more difficult, but it also creates roadblocks for dissidents and smaller, less well-funded groups engaging in those debates.”
These and other recent efforts, problems, and self-inflicted mishaps are certainly weighing on the company, shares of which slipped almost 3 percent on Thursday. Enough to result in a 16 percent quarter-to-date loss in its share price — Facebook’s second-worst since going public in 2012.
The “Delete Facebook” movement is also picking up steam, as we reported this week. According to a Pew Research Center study, more than 1-in-4 people have deleted the Facebook app from their phones, a figure that gets a lot higher when you focus just on 18- to 29-year-olds, 44 percent of whom say they’ve done so.