Editorials

Facebook betrayed us, and Zuck has a lot of explaining to do

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been a cheerleader for the social media giant, but his repose to the growing scandal was bit flatfotted.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been a cheerleader for the social media giant, but his repose to the growing scandal was bit flatfotted. Getty Images

Americans have finally looked up from their little glowing screens and said: What?! They and their trust in social media are at a crossroads.

After years of sharing even their most outlandish political views and most intimate personal moments on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram with abandon, doubt that their personal information is being meticulously cared for is creeping into the national consciousness. And with good reason.

These massive free platforms, such as Facebook, entice us to share as much as possible about ourselves in ways that inevitably push privacy out the window. And we have been allowing it. We know clearly now that personal data isn’t used only by the social media company you join. Your information is being mined by advertisers, political operatives, and Russians wrongdoers.

The damage done caused by some platforms’ lack of vigilance is eye-opening: allowing trolls to influencing of our elections, sowing racial and political strife between Americans, profiting from ISIS content. The access has been bone-chilling.

Some may be asking themselves: Is it time to roll back on social media’s rule and regain individual privacy? Maybe.

Of course, Facebook, which has amassed 2.2 billion members since its launch in 2004, has been outed as the biggest betrayer of its users’ privacy.

Last week, Facebook shockingly acknowledged that most of its members have probably had their personal data scraped by “malicious actors” is the latest example of the social network’s failure to protect users’ data.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is scheduled to testify in front of Congress Tuesday, told reporters that Facebook is shutting down a feature that let people search for users by phone number or email address. But it turns out that unscrupulous types also figured out years ago that they could use the same to identify individuals and scrape data off their profiles. And it was all news to Facebook until they were embroiled in scandal? He’s got a lot to explain.

That’s just what political data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica did when it inappropriately accessed data on as many as 87 million Facebook users to sway voters in the 2016 presidential election.

And now also those who feel victimized by the giant platforms are fighting back. On Friday, 16 survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting said they are suing Google, Facebook and Twitter for allegedly providing “material support” to ISIS. The mass shooting in 2016 at the gay club in Orlando left 49 dead. It was carried out by an Islamic State supporter who made his views known on social media.

In their suit, the victims allege that the three companies violated the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The suit claims that, “By the time of the terror attacks, in this case, ISIS had become one of the largest and most widely recognized and feared terrorist organizations in the world due in large part to its use of the defendants’ social media platforms to promote and carry out its terrorist activities.”

The suit also argues that these platforms profited from ISIS content, and that, at least in the case of Google-owned YouTube, some of that ad revenue may have been paid out of the terrorist group. Similar lawsuits have been filed against social media networks in the past, and judges have dismissed them. But those happened before the latest string of acknowledged security lapses. A judge may see things differently now.

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