The latest Facebook scandal seems to be the Big Tobacco era, as with others. It’s also a great cooking oil.
Senator Richard Blumenthal recounted a familiar analogy to hear the whistleblower on Facebook on Tuesday. “Facebook and Big Tech are facing their chance at Big Tobacco,” he said, arguing that social network products “can be addictive and toxic to children.” Frances Haugen, the aforementioned whistleblower, same calling Facebook’s decisions were “harmful” and said the company “chose profit over safety.”
Do you remember these phrases about Big Tobacco? Sure. They also thought of me as the Great Oil.
Best of all, Facebook products are a resource that brings in quite a few. (Connecting people online is possible a powerful thing!) The company also produces an innumerable number of byproducts that lead to many unwanted side effects. (Help destroy democracy not exactly part of Mark Zuckerberg’s plan for world domination.) With nearly 3 billion users worldwide, Facebook isn’t going away anytime soon.
The Big Tobacco metaphor does a good job of framing Facebook products that aren’t healthy. The only problem with comparing the two is that you can easily avoid cigarettes now. But it’s really hard to spend a day on the internet with no Facebook affiliation.
Enter the metaphor of oil. Like Facebook, there have been increases in fossil fuels. Oil and gas have historically given us a cheap, as much supply of energy. This led to cool inventions such as the internal combustion engine and the cars it powered. But like Facebook, fossil fuels have many drawbacks – like how we rely on them destroying the planet – but it is also almost impossible to imagine the world functioning without them.
Most of us just don’t stop at Facebook. The whole world can’t easily get and move to a new platform. At this point, we rely on Facebook products so much that they turn it off can stop the entire economy. We saw it released on Monday, when a server configuration error took over Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp for hours. This can seem like a hassle for many people in the United States, where there are many other ways to communicate and do business online. But across the Southern world, some of Facebook’s products, especially WhatsApp, have become important services.
“Developed countries like India, Mexico, and Brazil rely on free messaging services,” said Callum Sillars, a social media expert at Ampere Analysis, said the Keeper this week. “They have always been the backbone of communication in these countries. Small businesses and informal economies are increasingly reliant on Facebook services.”
Sounds a bit like relying on oil, doesn’t it? For example, if we wake up the next Monday and all the oil and gas on the planet is gone, it will be chaotic. But it’s not as bad as in the US, where renewable energy is used rapidly rising, as it were in parts of Africa and the Middle East. Developing countries in these areas really trusting of fossil fuels for their daily energy needs, and they there is no alternative now then.
You can expect similarity as well. Facebook is like the oil industry because Similarly play an outsized role in geopolitics. Facebook, like oil, makes huge profits while causing immeasurable damage to society. Facebook, like oil companies in the past, has a habit of raising smaller competitors to increase its grip on the market. Comparing Facebook to Standard Oil is actually a beautifully thought out experiment, especially when you look at the inverse relationship between public sentiment and government intervention on Standard Oil. Simply put, it only ended after people’s opinion about the Standard Oil monopoly collapsed in the early 1900s – thanks in part to muckraking journalist Ida Tarbell – that antitrust regulators were swept away to break up John D. Rockefeller’s empire.
What will happen to Mark Zuckerberg’s empire as it unfolds most recent crisis of damage it has caused to society remains unclear, but this time feels more serious than past scandals. To him testiMony before the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday, Haugen gave lawmakers a blueprint on how to fix Facebook, and Sen. Blumenthal called Zuckerberg to appear before the committee and answer some questions-specific about the recent revelations, such as how Facebook found out that Instagram was harming teenage girls but did nothing about it. If his appearance happens this month, Zuckerberg may be offended by some oil industry executives testified before the House Oversight Committee on climate disinformation.
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