Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Facebook – Silicon Valley’s Problem Child: Destroying Tech’s Image?

Recently a technology analyst who has been covering the industry for a couple of decades commented: “On my last couple of trips to Silicon Valley, not one person I spoke to had anything good to say about Facebook, a company that minted hundreds of Bay Area millionaires when it went public in 2012.  The list of reasons for its fall from grace are endless.”   What are those reasons?  Actually, they are very obvious:

1.) Gobbling Up Small, But Promising, Potential Competitors – In all, Facebook has devoured roughly 100 companies – many of them competitors including WhatsApp and Instagram – since 2007 without the government challenging one purchase.  A report from Columbia University notes that it shut down at least 39 of those companies, some of which may have represented future competitors.

One seasoned Palo Alto venture capitalist was quite blunt about this issue: “Facebook is f__king destroying this town.  Any time there’s an inkling of innovation in areas even remotely related to its business, Facebook either buys it and shuts it down, or copies it and then shuts it down.”

2.) Destroying People’s Trust in Technology – There have been a sequence of events that have caused the public to vividly realize that Facebook, and the other social media companies,  are abusing the data that is being collected on them.  First it was the exposing  personal info of tens of millions of its user via the Cambridge Analytics fiasco.  Then they read about Facebook’s problem of 30 million accounts having their phone numbers, email addresses and other personal data stolen in the largest security breach in the company’s history.  Now the secrets of the ad placement algorithms are leaking out, making it clear how the users personal data is being exploited and fueling enormous profits.

3.) Purveyor of Lies and Divisiveness – Facebook will take no responsibility for the slander and hate speech that  permeates its massive social media networks.  The company’s view is “ We are a technology company, not a media company.”  For example, when faced with the question about the fact that Facebook refused to take down Holocaust denials, the response was that “we are not an arbiter of speech.”  Facebook hides behind the free speech argument, while its tools drive destructive divisiveness.

4.) Know It All Attitude – Executives of Facebook, when confronted with some of these issues, either by the press or in congressional hearings, “come across as know-it-all’s” says one industry analyst.  That same analyst added “Facebook’s political party is achieving sustained growth in active uses, ad revenue, and market share…at basically whatever cost.”  Facebook seems totally unaware of its arrogant, obnoxious image.

Great things are occurring in the technology infrastructure (cloud capabilities, data management tools, etc.) and applications (data science, AI, etc.) areas, but unfortunately, technology is getting a black eye because of Facebook and the other social media vendors and the serious concerns being raises by users and regulators.  Sooner or later these companies will wake up, or be woken up by the regulators, and the serious problems with social media will be dealt with.

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