September has been a bruising month for Facebook. Reports that Facebook’s self-service ad-buying tool may have been used by Russian agents to undermine the 2016 election—as well as allowed anti-Semitic groups to target like-minded individuals—has damaged the brand’s reputation and raised questions about federal regulation of social media ads. Under growing pressure from Congress and the public to reveal more about the spread of covert Russian propaganda on Facebook, the company said on 21st, Sep. that it was turning over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to congressional committees investigating the Kremlin’s influence operation during the 2016 presidential campaign. Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, made the response on Facebook Live and said, “I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity.”
Apparently, the big issue can be a real disaster to Facebook’s reputation. The revelations have undoubtedly raised questions about transparency, integrity and crisis management. When should a company withhold information it knows will damage its brand, and for how long? At what point does it become dangerous to keep that information to itself? Where is that tipping point, when the act of withholding damaging information becomes worse than the information itself? Although Facebook used the platform itself to make the announcement and cited Federal privacy laws which limits their ability to disclose account information, it seemed to be passive. In this digital age, there isn’t a lot of time to get your arms around an issue before you start grappling with the fallout. But it’s absolutely necessary to react as quickly as possible.
Mr. Zuckerberg’s live video was a good point, however, showed the sincerity and authenticity. Since the issue was related to the politics, Zuckerberg’s standpoint must be clear that can maintain the beneficial figure among the public. Compared with other social media, like Twitter, which has kept a low profile since Facebook’s disclosure of the Russian intrusion, has initiative announced that it will brief the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors. Here is the point, besides the transparency, which is the most important requirement for today’s social media platforms, proactive reaction shows the sincerity more effectively and will turn out to be a big win.
To begin with, the first step for Facebook to solve the problem is to rebuild a transparent figure. It needs to plan the actions Facebook will take to make political advertising more transparent, and post the plan on its own platform as soon as possible.
In addition, Facebook can invest more heavily in its security teams, expand its coordination with global election commissions, and work closely with other tech companies to share threat information as it arises.
In the future, Facebook should learn from this fall and continue to strengthen the platform against bots and other forms of manipulation. As Mr. Zuckerberg reinforced that Facebook’s status is a transnational global behemoth whose power reaches into every corner of contemporary life, we hope it can take the real actions to realize the words. Never be passive, and always think a step earlier and further is quite important in such a highly informative society.
Also, from other aspects, regulation will be needed to ensure that voters know more about who is behind ads on social media.