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The Big Story: The Facebook Whistleblower

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Facebook weathered two storms this week: a whistleblower and a sweeping outage across multiple platforms.

First, the Facebook whistleblower revealed herself as Frances Haugen, who spoke with 60 Minutes about how platform changes like a 2018 decision to prioritize posts that “spark conversation” amped up divisiveness on the platform.

Then, on Monday, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp shut down for six hours, leaving at least $78 million in revenue on the table, based on previous quarterly earnings estimates.

Tuesday saw Haugen testify on Capitol Hill about Facebook’s decisions to prioritize profits over safety, from spreading misinformation to causing mental harm and even suicide among young social platform users.

What can advertisers make of this mess?

Ironically, some of Facebook’s changes, like the 2018 News Feed update (and the 2016 “friends and family” change before that), were designed to deal with the proliferation of viral publishers (remember the heyday of ViralNova and Upworthy?), which amassed likes but didn’t “spark conversation.”

Meanwhile, Facebook has become an even more sophisticated revenue machine, even as usage on its core platform – especially among younger generations – stagnates.

We talk about the merits of Haugen’s argument, as well as Facebook’s rebuttal, on this week’s episode of The Big Story – the Facebook whistleblower edition.

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