Monday 26 March 2018

Facebook floods British, U.S. newspapers with apologies over recent controversy

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, over the weekend ran advertisements in British and U.S. newspapers apologising to users in reaction to widespread expression of distrust in the platform over privacy issues.

Many users in the United States and Germany have raised concerns over the level of trust they have in Facebook over privacy issues.

Fewer than half of Americans said they trust the platform to obey U.S. privacy laws, according to Reuters/Ipsos polls on Sunday, while a survey published by Bild am Sonntag, Germany’s largest-selling Sunday paper, found 60 per cent of Germans fear that Facebook and other social networks are having a negative impact on democracy.

The platform, in reaction to the backlash, ran the advertisements over the weekend.

In the advertisements placed in newspapers including the Observer in Britain and the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, Facebook founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, apologised for “a breach of trust”.

“We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it,” Facebook said in the advertisement published with its logo.

Facebook is under growing government scrutiny in Europe and the United States and is trying to repair its reputation among users, advertisers, lawmakers and investors.

The development comes against the background of allegations that a British consultancy firm, Cambridge Analytica, improperly gained access to users’ information to build profiles of American voters that were later used to help elect U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

A U.S. Senator, Mark Warner, and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Facebook had not been “fully forthcoming” over how Cambridge Analytica used its data.

He also reiterated calls for Mr Zuckerberg to testify before U.S. lawmakers, saying Facebook and other internet companies had been reluctant to confront “the dark underbelly of social media” and how it can be manipulated.

Last week, Facebook shares tumbled 14 per cent as the hashtag #DeleteFacebook gained traction online.

Reuters reports that its online poll found that 41 per cent of Americans trust Facebook to obey laws that protect their personal information, compared with 66 per cent who said they trust Inc, 62 percent who trust Alphabet Inc’s Google, 60 per cent for Microsoft Corp.

The poll was conducted from Wednesday through Friday and had 2,237 responses.

The German poll published by Bild was conducted by Kantar EMNID, a unit of global advertising holding company WPP, using representative polling methods, the firm said. 

Overall, only 33 percent found social media had a positive effect on democracy, against 60 percent who believe the opposite.

There are concerns on whether people across the globe would boycott the social media network following the scandal.

“It’s psychologically harder to let go of a platform like Facebook that’s become pretty well ingrained into people’s lives,” said eMarketer analyst Debra Williamson.

The firm at the centre of the Facebook controversies, Cambridge Analytica, was also alleged to have attempted to influence the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria in favour of the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

A damning report published by the UK Guardian revealed how the foreign firm was hired to do the dirty job by an unnamed Nigerian oil billionaire who was afraid of Mr. Jonathan losing the presidential election, the paper reported on Wednesday.

Mr Jonathan seemed to be referring to the allegations Sunday when he said some individuals were out to destroy his image.

“What I will say however, is that no matter how far and fast falsehood has traveled, it must eventually be overtaken by truth,” the former president said.

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