Apr 1, 2022 - Technology

Facebook's latest faceplants

An illustration of a Facebook thumb pointed down with a bandage on it

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Facebook parent Meta found itself back in the spotlight this week, largely through controversies of its own making.

Why it matters: Meta’s stock has already struggled to rebound from the "Facebook Files" fiasco and Apple’s app changes (down 33% year-to-date), but it had begun to rally in March. Now, a series of setbacks could further hinder its comeback.

Driving the news:

  • The Verge reported Thursday that, for months, misinformation has been flowing more freely into at least half of all Facebook users' News Feeds because of a glitch in the system that is supposed to downrank potentially problematic content.
  • Facebook parent Meta, along with Apple, handed over customer information to hackers who successfully spoofed what appeared to be an emergency request from law enforcement, as Bloomberg reported Thursday.
  • On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that Meta had hired a GOP consulting firm to help gin up anti-TikTok sentiment.

Yes, but: Facebook downplayed the impact of the News Feed ranking issues, which also allowed more unwanted content onto News Feeds including nudity and violence, telling the Verge that the bug “has not had any meaningful, long-term impact on our metrics.”

  • The problem did not apply to posts that qualified for deletion, only to so-called "borderline" items that pushed close to Facebook's rules' edge.

Be smart: Facebook is under enormous pressure to improve the safety of its current products before it begins encrypting its messaging products and expanding into the metaverse.

  • It’s also facing growing antitrust pressure. As such, even small snafus can easily bubble up to PR crises that further erode trust with regulators and legislators.
  • Investors tend to be more willing to overlook these sorts of problems until they affect the bottom line, but will be less forgiving if advertisers balk.
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