While the whole thing is worth reading, given Facebook‘s sizable footprint when it comes to all things digital, Zuckerberg has apparently come down off the mountain his company built out of fake news, harassment, genocide, and privacy scandals to announce that he has gotten religion on privacy. The future of Facebook and its app ecosystem of Instagram and WhatsApp will be direct messaging services and disappearing content, he vows, and the company is going to make this central to the platform’s experience.
To which the internet responded: “LULWut?”
Even Zuck himself somewhat sheepishly pointed out in a bid to win the Nobel Prize for dramatic understatements: “Frankly, we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services.”
The reactions reflected just how deeply battered his reputation and credibility are.
Don’t believe me about the negativity surrounding Facebook? Here is a sample of headlines from the past week pulled from the aggregation site TechMeme:
- Axios Harris Poll of US adults: Facebook’s reputation dropped from 51st to 94th in 2018, following myriad scandals; Amazon, Netflix, and Apple remained steady
- Following its Dec. report, Privacy International finds seven major Android apps, including Yelp and Duolingo, still send personal data to Facebook upon launch
- Facebook has urged users to enable phone number-based 2FA, but the numbers are used in a user lookup feature with no opt out and to target ads, sparking outcry
- Leaked Facebook memo describes company’s lobbying efforts in 2012 and 2013 against a proposed European data directive which later became GDPR, more
- Developers in Moldova say they reported misinformation and fake news to Facebook for three years before the company took action in February
Those are just headlines from the last five days!
Not surprisingly then, Zuckerberg’s latest announcement was seen to land in a kind of no-man’s-land between cynical and self-serving:
Mark Zuckerberg today: ”I believe we should be working towards a world where people can speak privately and live freely knowing that their information will only be seen by who they want to see it.” How long has he personally believed this? An hour? A day? https://t.co/2qmZjl8Iaq
— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) March 6, 2019
Who really believes that they will change. This company has always lied about everything. I mean just look at their track record. https://t.co/iEUiJjZ61s
— OM (@om) March 6, 2019
2009 zuck saw facebook as pushing against outmoded external ideas about privacy and as a force for normalization of new ones. 2019 zuck is writing about the need to push back AGAINST the new norms that his company impatiently demanded. without disowning OR taking credit for them?
— John Herrman (@jwherrman) March 6, 2019
I love that he just declares this privacy thing might matter after being a big part of the soiling of online culture with sloppy public sharing tools: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp: Mark Zuckerberg says the future is private messaging – Recode https://t.co/PW5DTLEByp
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) March 6, 2019
After 15 years constantly wheedling ever more "sharing" and hiding settings and pushing the envelope of privacy and then apologizing and then pushing it some more and ruthlessly monetizing while also taping over his OWN webcam and mic and giving HIMSELF disappearing messages …
— Molly Wood (@mollywood) March 6, 2019
To be fair, some people are willing to give Zuckerberg a shot, or at least reserve judgment, like former Facebook chief information security officer Alex Stamos:
1) This isn't a post I expected to read, and I wish he wrote it two years ago. Hopefully the external vision is reflected in internal moves to change product culture that informs thousands of product and engineering decisions per year. Turning a ship that large is difficult.
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) March 6, 2019
But Zuckerberg will face a lot of doubters in the coming years. Whether he can artfully navigate this ongoing backlash and rebuild a post-advertising driven business around privacy is tough to say, but critics are lining up to bet that it is a task beyond his grasp.