It is no surprise that Facebook shares declined with all this meshugas, but I doubt there will be any real impact on the company in the long run, given its huge market share and fast-growing ad business. Wall Street has never been one to throw in the towel if there is money to be made, and Facebook has been very, very good to investors.
While the company pays lip service to the new concerns over teenage girls being stripped of self-esteem by using Instagram, raised largely because of Haugen’s document dump, few investors would turn in their shares barring some truly heinous situation. Many consider the revelations that came from Haugen’s whistle blowing such an event, but Facebook’s aggressive defense is a sign that the company is not going to wheel out its C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, or the C.O.O., Sheryl Sandberg, for an apology tour. Brazen is the order of the day.
Thus, it is up to the lawmakers to act, and act hard, since there is no countervailing power to Facebook except a government. Legislators have an opportunity now — and they are increasingly willing to work together — to pass meaningful legislation on data protection, privacy and even on transparency.
There’s even more. When I first met Zuckerberg about 15 years ago, he told me that his then-nascent start-up should be considered a “utility.” The Facebook outage this week certainly showed how important the platform is to business and people across the globe to operate their digital lives. OK, Mark, then let’s regulate it like a utility.
Or we can wait until Facebook dies its inevitable death by innovation, as all tech eventually does. This was the premise of a terrific column by the Times’ Kevin Roose and well worth quoting:
“What I’m talking about is a kind of slow, steady decline that anyone who has ever seen a dying company up close can recognize. It’s a cloud of existential dread that hangs over an organization whose best days are behind it, influencing every managerial priority and product decision and leading to increasingly desperate attempts to find a way out. This kind of decline is not necessarily visible from the outside, but insiders see a hundred small, disquieting signs of it every day — user-hostile growth hacks, frenetic pivots, executive paranoia, the gradual attrition of talented colleagues.”
His main point is that Facebook might be Godzilla: It causes endless damage, but it will inevitably die. The problem is that the rest of us getting stomped cannot wait that long.
Today I chat with Alex Stamos, the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and a former head of security at Facebook.