Could The Facebook Empire Be Crumbling?

  • by , Featured Contributor, September 24, 2021

Surely, if you had been alive at the height of the Persian Empire, you would not have fathomed that the state would soon collapse. Surely, if you had been alive during the height of the Roman Empire, you would have expected it to go on forever.

Despite the fact that every empire throughout history has eventually crumbled, it is still hard to imagine the death of this one.

The previous two paragraphs could have been the opening to a speculative essay on the stability of American democracy, or on the likely duration of China's dominance.

But the biggest empire in the world, boasting 2.74 billion inhabitants, is not a nation-state. It's Facebook.

Like most empires, Facebook has a history of terrible behavior. I documented a bunch of it in late 2018, with further infractions coming along a few short months later. Here are just a few:

  • They faked video view metrics by up to 900%, defrauding advertisers and driving a “pivot to video” that caused dozens of news sites to go bankrupt.
  • Their filter bubble algorithms were directly linked to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
  • They had a ”friendly fraud” scandal, in which they had intentionally gotten kids to spend money without realizing it, and then refused to refund the money.
  • They paid 13- to 35-year-olds $20 per month to get access to everything on their devices, including, “private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps -- including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location tracking apps you may have installed.”



But like the infamous honey badger, the folks at Facebook just don’t care. Not one of those or any of the myriad other scandals they have faced have ever seemed to cause anything more than a flesh wound -- and meanwhile, the juggernaut continues apace.

At more than $29 billion for the 3-month period, year-on-year revenue was up 56% for Q2 2021.

When the money keeps rolling in, you don’t ask questions. Surely, with ineffectual blow after ineffectual blow doing nothing more than superficial damage, the Facebook empire seems here to stay. But maybe, just maybe, there are a few cracks in the hegemony.

As Jason Kint reported, a major lawsuit was filed last month, not only against Facebook but also against Zuckerberg, Sandberg, members of the board (including Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen) and others individually.

The suit alleges that FB spent billions to protect Zuckerberg personally, that there was an “epic corporate governance breakdown,” that there was insider trading, that Zuckerberg misled Congress, and more.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission is going hard after the company, and with a chair as fierce as Lina Khan at the helm actually stands a decent chance of getting somewhere.

It’s hard to imagine that anything could have a material impact on Facebook’s empire. But every empire looks that way -- until it falls.

3 comments about "Could The Facebook Empire Be Crumbling?".
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  1. Gregory Lipper from People Data Company, September 24, 2021 at 4:24 p.m.

    To which cracks do you refer? What signs of impending failure do you see? I have my own opinions on this, but I am not a journalist. If you use a clickbait title like "Could the Facebook Empire Be Crumbling?", shouldn't you provide some view, evidence or even suggestion of the crumbling? 

  2. Kaila Colbin from Boma Global replied, September 24, 2021 at 5:08 p.m.

    Hi Gregory! Of course—in my next column I'll dive deeper into why the lawsuit naming Zuckerberg et al, Lina's approach to regulation, and other happenings might have an impact where prior attempts to rein FB in have failed.

  3. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, September 27, 2021 at 8:39 a.m.

    Is the empire going to crumble?

    Replace "Facebook" with "Nielsen" in this story and there is your answer.  No.

    As long as Facebook can provide agencies and brands an easy way to dump ad dollars (just like Nielsen), the industry will put up with blunders, scandals, lies, and repetitive bad practices.  Everyone likes to complain about Facebook and Nielsen, but nobody holds their feet to the fire.

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