OPINION

Will Mistrust Jeopardize the Survival of Facebook?

Mistrust of Facebook

Trust in sources that we depend on for business and personal decisions is critical. A platform that aggregates opinion and news should be held to the highest standard of trust and honesty. This need for trustworthiness is because, if it acts against its users, an aggregation service like Facebook can cause damage at a national or even planetary level by instigating people to act against their self-interest.

Last week we heard that Facebook’s moderating system “XCheck,” or “Cross Check” gives special privileges to some celebrities and politicians. It’s also been reported that Facebook profits from illegal activity; keeps the money it earns from certain fraudulent ad campaigns that rip off users; and its Instagram property has recently been flagged as harmful to young women.

The issue comes down to what appears to be a financial model that puts revenue generation ahead of pretty much every decision. While that has so far been very lucrative for Facebook, much like any illegal scheme, this evident policy could eventually be terminal for a company misbehaving globally.

Facebook is the poster child for going after Big Tech domestically; and in recent years other countries have come around to the idea that Facebook is harmful. Albeit, some of these latter are under totalitarian rule.

Microsoft was the most hated tech company in the late 90s. Google replaced it for a bit. Now Facebook seems to have made its goal to be destroyed by its actions and take some other U.S. tech companies with it.

Let’s talk about that this week. Then I’ll close with my product of the week, the solar panels I just had installed at my home after researching which are currently the best (and they weren’t made in China).

Facebook’s Problems Begin With Its Revenue Source

Ad-based revenue carried the initial wave of free services worldwide, supporting newspapers and magazines where readers paid only for delivery.

Early on, print media found they had to keep the ad payers separate from content control, or they’d lose trust. Then the initial TV news programs also implemented similar policies. These shows were initially surrounded by regulations that forced honesty and balanced reporting, though much of that control structure no longer exists.

If you look under Facebook’s behavior, revenue focus appears to overcome all other factors when making decisions. That level of over-focus on revenue often forces activities that appear not only illegal but criminal.

While money may not be the root of all evil, it is the root of much of it, and we’ve watched industries like tobacco, oil, and pharmaceuticals all drift to harm scale to protect and increase their revenues.

If the reports I referred to earlier are accurate, Facebook is now broadly profiting from the criminal activity on its platform, and it shouldn’t be long until an attorney general implicates the company and its CEO in that activity.

Competition Serves the Customer

Microsoft, whose 1990s drift to bad behavior pales in comparison to what’s reported Facebook is doing, had a similar extreme focus on revenues, has changed. Its shift to understanding and helping customers as a primary priority has, over time, caused the company to support Linux and become one of the biggest open source contributors.

Also, Microsoft shifted to services and essentially led the technology market from individual sales, promoting bad customer behavior, to services that can wed customers’ and vendors’ needs more closely to each other. This positive outcome is not always actual, as we have cable companies and the old AT&T as examples of services companies that also developed an impressive amount of customer hatred.

Competition helps to assure a company doesn’t take its customers for granted.

When I worked at IBM before its fall, I had a conversation with one of the CMOs. I was concerned that we were making promises to governments we had no intention of fulfilling.

He said, “Rob, you just don’t understand; we are so dominant, it is like selling air, they have to buy from us.” I’ve thought about that conversation a lot over the years. I have concluded that if you don’t put your users first, don’t aggressively enforce ethical behavior, and don’t have competition; you’ll eventually kill your company because you’ll tactically put revenue and profits first.

Much of the successful antitrust action I’ve covered over the years drifts back to putting customers and users after revenues and profits. This exposure makes sense given the regulatory bodies that bring antitrust actions, like the DoJ and FTC, are focused on citizen harm. If you aren’t harming anyone, excess profits aren’t a problem. But if you are profiting from harm those three-letter agencies take exception.

Zuckerberg Needs To Go

Mark Zuckerberg is a great deal of the problem at Facebook. He appears unable to grasp human behavior, presents very poorly, and might be considered the poster child for un-caring CEOs. While Zuckerberg is undeniably intelligent, he also has what appear to be horrid people skills.

Zuckerberg appears to think and operate tactically and believes Facebook is powerful enough to go against governments. Now, he is hardly alone. I recall many now-ex CEOs that have thought the same thing over the years. But generally that is why they are now ex-CEOs. Facebook is mighty but can’t possibly match up against an entity with a standing army and substantial law enforcement capabilities.

One of the most damning allegations in this WSJ article is that “A Mexican drug cartel was using Facebook to recruit, train and pay hit men.” If true, that is about as far over the line as you get, and it is hard to see how profiting from this kind of activity wouldn’t end badly for the company.

Facebook needs to put Zuckerberg on the bench and bring in a new CEO that can fix its focus and behavior to avoid harming users it ostensibly supports.

Wrapping Up

Facebook does play an essential role in disseminating information. Still, so much of that information is false and harmful that it needs a behavioral fix. Otherwise the company will get regulated out of business even if its executives aren’t eventually criminally charged.

Right now, Facebook isn’t necessarily free either. I did some rough math and the scam ads I’ve fallen for over the years have cost me a bit over $1,000 to date. That’s a lot for a free service and, I expect, many of you have similar stories.

I continue to see ads that have copied legitimate campaigns to offer significant discounts on products they don’t intend to ship. I’ve got some good stuff off the service as well, including a decent drone. But I’ve learned to look for deals too good to be accurate and, before I buy, to check and see if anyone else has flagged the vendor — something Facebook should be doing.

If Facebook doesn’t fix its horrid behavior, I have doubts it’ll be around at the end of the decade. It seems a shame because were it properly run; Facebook could be a fantastic agent of good. But, right now it is anything but an agent for good.

Rob Enderle's Technology Product of the Week

LG NeON R Solar Panels

I just completed a sizable solar installation at my home. This is my second solar installation. The panels from my first installation aged a lot over the past 20 years.

That first installation lost a substantial amount of efficiency over the first decade, and it wasn’t great at the start. Panel efficiency has improved dramatically, but I’ve learned that you want to focus on yield and warranty because getting these things fixed can be an expensive unplanned cost.

LG, on average, follows SunPower on efficiency but leads on warranty (25 years with better than 90% performance remaining). More solar panel rankings are available here. SunPower may be exiting manufacturing entirely, while LG, one of the largest manufacturing companies in South Korea, appears far more likely to be around 25 years from now.

I mention SunPower because if it weren’t for this change in manufacturing, I’d have likely chosen them instead. This SunPower exit may eventually prove positive for SunPower and Maxeon, which will take over manufacturing. Still, it created an unknown long-term risk on the project and dropped that panel behind the LG 400 Watt NeON R panel as a result. These aren’t cheap, but I’m not planning on moving and want them to last as long as possible.

LG NeON R Solar Panles

LG NeON R Solar Panels


I contacted LG and asked for the closest installer. They gave me A&R Solar out of Portland. A&R did an impressive job with my installation to earn this plug here on TechNewsWorld.

My roof presented a unique design problem because it is complex and metal. But the installation looks good, and A&R took extra care to blend things in and not create eyesores.

It is a connected installation that allows me to monitor it over the web and get real-time performance information. Last Thursday at 1:30 p.m. my system was generating 12.5 kW which seems to be the peak for the day.

I’ve also ordered Tesla batteries, but their review will have to wait because they are back-ordered until next year.

Since I ended up putting my money where my mouth is and buying the LG NeON R solar panels, they are my product of the week.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

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