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2 February, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Facebook at 15

A titan with grown-up woes

AFP, San Francisco

Fifteen years after its founding, Facebook has made strides toward Mark Zuckerberg’s goal of connecting the world. But it has also made some huge missteps that have turned some of its cheerleaders into vocal detractors.

The online social network founded on February 4, 2004 in Zuckerberg’s Harvard University dorm heads into adolescence with the grown-up burdens of being held accountable for its behavior and playing in a world where people may not always have the purest intentions.

Facebook has seen unprecedented success by amassing more than 2.3 billion people worldwide who actively use the platform to share updates, obtain information and connect with new people.

But it has also been battered by criticism that it was more focused on growth than protecting users or thwarting deception, bullying and harassment.

“This is a very powerful company that has created an addictive product that many people are dependent on,” said author and analyst Josh Bernoff.

“Because of that, there is tremendous responsibility.”

Facebook was hammered last year by a series of scandals over data protection and privacy and concerns that the leading social network had been manipulated by foreign interests for political purposes.

It has faced increasing scrutiny on how it collects vast amounts of personal data from users, and how it shares that information with partners to deliver targeted advertising.

“After the challenges of 2018, it is no longer lauded for its innovation. It is scrutinized and criticized for its every move,” eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson said.

“Facebook at age 15 is confronting maturity. It’s no longer just an upstart company.”

Facebook is second only to colossus Google in worldwide digital ad revenue and is the owner of some of the most widely used smartphone apps.

The platform is behind free, stand-alone smartphone apps Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, each of which has more than a billion users.

Zuckerberg, 34, recently renewed his defense of the social network’s business model, adamant that Facebook did not sell user data.

He maintained that the social network makes money from targeting ads based on what it learns about users, keeping the service free.

Bernoff saw Zuckerberg’s latest defense as contending that Facebook is here to help people, and thus can be trusted.

“We have learned in capitalism that when companies get a lot of power and say they are doing what is best for you, we need to scrutinize them more,” Bernoff said.

If history is an indicator, then Facebook’s true threat could be a lifestyle shift to a different way of interacting with computers.

Bernoff questioned whether Facebook was positioning itself for the rise of smart speakers using the likes of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

“The future is going to be increasingly related to voice, and to companies and individuals interacting through artificially intelligent agents,” Bernoff said.

“As people change the way they interact with the world, there is no guarantee Facebook will have a place there.”

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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