Facebook has a long track record of scandals, some good, others bad, and a handful of the ugly. The social media service is relatively young, however it has completely dictated the future of networking services. Many networks have spawned as a result of Facebook’s proven success. Over the years there has been mixed user feedback regarding the site, most often involving privacy breaches. Looking back, despite all of the controversy surrounding privacy, two facts remain: usership continues to rise and Facebook really has achieved its mission to connect people all over the world.
Facebook was founded 14 years ago in 2004. At its inception the social media service was only open to the Harvard network, but eventually expanded to include all Boston-area schools. Other elite schools that were then filtered into the social network were Ivy Leagues and Stanford. Finally, the rest of higher education and even high school students were allowed to partake in all the fun. By 2006, Facebook was fair game for anyone over the age of 13 who wanted to join.
In 2010, the social media network came under fire when it admitted that its most popular applications—such as Farmville and others—shared user’s private information with advertisers. The applications had access to user’s private data and distributed information such as friend lists to third parties. The scope of the breach was revealed to affect tens of millions of users, even those who had established the most strict privacy settings. As a result of the breach, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission subjected Facebook to privacy audits every two years for the next 20 years.
Mark Zuckerberg has maintained that Facebook strives for inclusivity and for the greater good. In 2012, Facebook included a gay marriage icon as a logical step toward inclusiveness in usership. However that was quickly overlooked by the subsequent outcry over hate speech that was prevalent throughout Facebook. Users complained that profile pages and groups had been created to malign specific lifestyles, gender and sexual orientation. The ugly part of the story is that it took over 100 advocacy groups campaigning for a year in 2013 to convince Facebook that it needed to update its policy on hate speech and domestic violence depicted in profile content. In light of the gay marriage inclusivity pitch the previous year, people were concerned that the social network site was not really concerned about the well being of its users.
In 2014, Facebook allowed users to choose from upward of 50 different gender identifications, a considerable change from its previous standard of “male” and “female.” It is worth noting here that in 2012, India’s first openly gay politician sent an open letter to the social network service asking them to include an “Other” box. Facebook’s official response was to side-step the request by noting that users have the option to not display their orientation on profiles. Users felt that this was a bad call and poor form on behalf of the social network giant.
Also a 2014 innovation, Facebook now allows users to “ask” about someone’s relationship status. It is considered by some to be a crude way of asking a partner out on a date. This could be taken both as good and bad, contingent upon the user’s degree of bitterness about their relationship status. This recent addition to the social network service is just the latest of many attempts to connect people on more levels.
Since its inception, Facebook has encountered a handful of privacy blunders and received complaints from many of its users regarding what it shares with third parties. Even so, the fact remains that the social network site has been a beacon of inclusion and connectivity. In addition, the blunders do not appear to be resulting in lower numbers of users. Whether the intentions behind its inclusivity are genuine or merely attempts generate good press is still up for debate. Thus as one looks back, there remains much to say about what is good, bad, and ugly about Facebook.
By Courtney Anderson