The crisis exposed by the documents shows how Facebook, despite its regularly avowed good intentions, appears to have slow-walked or sidelined efforts to address real harms the social network has magnified and sometimes created. They reveal numerous instances where researchers and rank-and-file workers uncovered deep-seated problems that the company then overlooked or ignored.
Final responsibility for this state of affairs rests with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who holds what one former employee described as dictatorial power over a corporation that collects data on and provides free services to roughly 3 billion people around the world.
“Ultimately, it rests with Mark and whatever his prerogative is — and it has always been to grow, to increase his power and his reach,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University communications professor who’s followed Facebook closely for years.
Zuckerberg has an ironclad hold on Facebook Inc. He holds the majority of the company’s voting shares, controls its board of directors and has increasingly surrounded himself with executives who don’t appear to question his vision.
But he has so far been unable to address stagnating user growth and shrinking engagement for Facebook the product in key areas such as the United States and Europe. Worse, the company is losing the attention of its most important demographic — teenagers and young people — with no clear path to gaining it back, its own documents reveal.
Young adults engage with Facebook far less than their older cohorts, seeing it as an “outdated network” with “irrelevant content” that provides limited value for them, according to a November 2020 internal document. It is “boring, misleading and negative,” they say.
In other words, the young see Facebook as a place for old people.
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