Can Facebook's reputation be saved?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before US Congress committees in Washington this week. His company is under fire for allowing data analysis company Cambridge Analytica access to the data of 87 million Facebook members without their permission. Commentators identify Zuckerberg himself as the main problem.

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The Irish Times (IE) /

Company needs internal supervision

The Irish Times criticises the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is both chairman of the board and CEO of Facebook:

“Under Zuckerberg's leadership, the company has suffered from a wide range of chronically unaddressed data privacy and data misuse problems that he and Facebook often initially underplayed. Board members should have provided the oversight that ensured known problems were systematically dealt with. But the chairman of the board is Mark Zuckerberg, a problematic conjoining of chief executive and chairmanship roles that is widely considered poor governance. All of which signals little is likely to change at a company that has failed to seriously address data privacy concerns for years.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Zuckerberg should step aside

Facebook will survive the crisis but German daily Die Welt isn't so sure Zuckerberg will:

“In the early years Zuckerberg was inextricably bound up with his creation. But now Facebook can probably get along without him. Zuckerberg stands for many of the things that plunged the company into a crisis, like the naive assumption that third parties would handle the users' data with care. Moreover in Sheryl Sandberg, the number two at the company, he has a worthy successor. Sandberg is perceived as the good face of Facebook. And as a superwoman: with a Harvard degree, and jobs at the US Treasury, Google and now Facebook under her belt. And on top of all that she's a best-selling author and the mother of two children. If the criticism of Zuckerberg doesn't stop, Sandberg could replace him.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Facebook can't and won't really change

Facebook's business model means it can't make any major changes to its data protection practices, the Financial Times points out:

“Despite changes to its privacy policies, Facebook fundamentally has not changed. It still depends on collecting and sharing as much personal information as regulators and public opinion will tolerate. It still needs to do everything possible to encourage engagement with content in a manner that will benefit advertisers. And its extractive and exploitative relationship to its users is the same. ... While the company has simplified and clarified its explanation about what is shared with advertisers and how, the practices described have not changed much.”

Delo (SI) /

No such thing as a free lunch

For Delo the complaints about the lack of data protection on Facebook are simply naive:

“It's hard to understand why it's supposedly so bad for someone to analyse data that we've voluntarily offered to the world. Every adult knows that there's no such thing as a free lunch. It costs nothing to use Facebook. ... All sellers, including sellers of political ideas, want to know as much about the market as possible so as to adjust their offer accordingly and lure people to their stores - or in this case polling stations. Serious politicians are not going to spurn service providers who can supply them with information about the market. And they're not going to ask too many questions about how they got their information.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Take data protection seriously from the start

Deutschlandfunk pins its hopes on the new EU data protection directive that takes effect at the end of May:

“It will ensure that companies take data protection seriously right from the start. This will at least reduce the problem of data leaks like that at Facebook from the outset. Privacy and data protection as a basic principle in the construction of new platforms and services and as a default setting for all users - these are the new rules that data protection activists have boxed through against considerable resistance. It may be that these rules nip a few innovative business ideas of start-ups and founders in the bud, as some politicians and representatives of corporate interests have complained. But that's a good thing because this is the only way to prevent companies from gathering mountains of data as naively and carelessly as Facebook has done.”

Dienas Bizness (LV) /

Cheese is only free in a mousetrap

At the end of the day we pay a high price for using free online services, the business paper Dienas bizness comments mockingly:

“In Latvia there is an old saying: Cheese is only free in a mousetrap - and only for the second mouse. And it's true. Data has become a raw material, and its commercial value will only grow in the future. Everything has become a commodity: our friendships, love, children, most beautiful and important moments, our travels and memories. Whether or not we are aware of it, we pay a high price for the free Internet. The price is our private life. Even people who have nothing to hide run the risk of someone obtaining their data and - if it becomes useful - using it to manipulate and falsify.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Zuckerberg has wasted an opportunity

Mark Zuckerberg's refusal to testify before the British parliament will further undermine Facebook's credibility, La Vanguardia writes:

“Zuckerberg, who courageously attends a session each Friday where he answers his employees' questions, has missed a good opportunity to do marketing and recover part of the credibility his social network has lost. Trust is key for Facebook. ... A photo of the king of the social networks in his typical grey T-shirt facing the suited members of the British parliament would have gone around the world. Facebook has a major credibility problem right now and must not waste any chance to restore its image and calm the situation.”

hvg (HU) /

Ten parallels between Facebook and Fidesz

Facebook and the right-wing populist governing Party in Hungary function according to similar principles, journalist Csaba Balogh writes in the government-critical weekly hvg:

“Facebook and Fidesz have many things in common: First: the basic idea is excellent but the implementation has become riddled with errors. Second: if you find a problem in the system there's nowhere you can report it to have it resolved. Third: a person who's never had another job has the say. Fourth: the founder doesn't like to apologise. Fifth: he's busy collecting your data, even if you haven't given your permission. Sixth: he's been indulging in hate speech recently. Seventh: it's becoming harder and harder to get rid of him. Eighth: he's convinced that he - and only he - can make the world a better place. Ninth: children should not come into contact with him too soon. Tenth: his messages and ads are really annoying.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Facebook users are not victims

Facebook users must not evade their own responsibility, Phileleftheros comments:

“Are the citizens really the victims? Is the poor citizen never responsible for what happens to him? Even when he posts photos of what he eats day in, day out, pictures of every step he takes, answers questions, clicks the Like button and shares other people's views? ... And suddenly celebrities and normal people are saying that Facebook accounts must be closed, and point with the same enthusiasm and innocence to sites that are supposedly more reliable. The problem, of course, is not the existence of these platforms, but how we use them - that's clear. For that reason we shouldn't cast ourselves as innocent victims every time we get the chance.”

Offnews (BG) /

Users will soon be less naive

The scandal over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica will put users of social networks on their guard, Offnews predicts:

“The data scandal will have an impact on the social networks in that users will approach them with less naivety in the future. They will no longer believe that these are harmless platforms on which they can communicate with their friends with a clear conscience. The belief that virtual friendships are as good as real ones, and can even replace them, will give way to the knowledge that in joining Facebook you're entering the house of Big Brother in which you voluntarily become the victim of obscure political and economic interests.”

Slate (FR) /

The system is the problem

The true scandal isn't Cambridge Analytica's use of personal data, Slate writes:

“The real problem is that Facebook is the chief architect of this socio-commercial model: a model by means of which people all over the world agree to give information about themselves in exchange for free online services. Facebook isn't just the source of the data that Cambridge Analytica used. It is the very reason for the existence of this sort of data. And it is the reason why such data is sorted and organised in this way.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Liberals making Zuckerberg the scapegoat

Rzeczpospolita sees the attempts in certain places to blame Cambridge Analytica for the election defeats of liberal parties as diversionary tactics:

“The uproar over the use of the instruments created by Cambridge Analytica is just a further attempt to find someone to blame for the political defeats of the liberals in America and Europe in the last two years. Of course the progressive camp was robbed of its victory. But it had nothing to do with its own mistakes and omissions. Now it's no longer Putin and his trolls who were responsible for stealing the victory but an internal enemy. Zuckerberg is being held up as the scapegoat.”

Õhtuleht (EE) /

Why I'm staying on Facebook

For radio journalist Taavi Libe there can be no question of renouncing Facebook. Instead he proposes an alternative in Õhtuleht:

“Perhaps we should see Facebook as our home. When our home is in a mess, we don't just close the door and look for a new one. Tidying up is tedious, but cheaper. In the same way Facebook would be far more pleasant if I could overcome my laziness and stop following acquaintances who share personality tests. ... Moreover, if I erase Facebook how will I know which of my acquaintances are racists or illiterate?”

Spiegel Online (DE) /

Boycotting is a First World privilege

Such campaigns are all very well but they won't solve the problem, Spiegel Online points out:

“For many people, giving up online communication and disconnecting doesn't seem a viable, or conceivable, option. And that's entirely understandable. Moreover there isn't just the Western perspective: for many people in emerging countries Facebook is basically synonymous with Internet access. Erasing your Facebook account is a privilege no one there can afford. So even if it may sound odd, the radical solution is not enough. There must be rules that are adapted to the everyday life of millions of users - or in Facebook's case two billion users.”

Kauppalehti (FI) /

Facebook no longer invulnerable

Facebook's power is beginning to crumble, Kauppalehti concludes:

“Facebook recently had to report on a historical turning point. In the period between October and December of last year the number of active users in North America, the company's most important market, dropped for the first time. ... The debates in the aftermath of the US presidential election have highlighted what a hellish machinery data-driven marketing can be. ... Facebook still wields tremendous power, but it is no longer invulnerable. After this most recent scandal people will be a little more cautious in using this service, which could in turn lead to a decline in advertising revenues.”

Berlingske (DK) /

People becoming commodities

The Facebook data abuse scandal comes as no surprise for Berlingske:

“We ourselves are in the best position to help our cause: when we use this popular medium it must be on our own account and at our own risk. ... The whole affair could just be the tip of the iceberg. Every visit to a website says something about you. Every move you make when carrying a smartphone can be followed. When you enter the virtual world, you become a commodity with a high price tag. No one wants social media to be transferred to the state or subject to different regulations - that's something states with which we normally don't compare ourselves do. The worst fraud can probably be hindered with laws and rules. But as always, it's common sense that offers the best protection.”

Webcafé (BG) /

Difficult task for Bulgaria's EU Commissioner

The EU Commissioner responsible for digital economy, the Bulgarian Mariya Gabriel, now has her work cut out for her, Webcafé comments:

“Boyko Borrisov's exemplary European took office with broad backing and great ambitions, but above all with the hope that her digital economy portfolio would be simple and that although she doesn't have any real expertise in this area no much could go wrong. The Internet giants, however, have turned out to be a continuous source of problems and scandals which the EU institutions are at a loss to respond to.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Danger of a Faceboocracy

Data abuse poses a real threat to democracy, De Volkskrant rails:

“The ancient craft of the political election campaign threatens to mutate into an invisible war machinery that represents a danger to democracy. ... It's time to look at how democracy can defend itself against the unclean and hidden methods of post-modern election campaigners. Just as with the fight against fake news, it's difficult to regulate election campaigns without undermining freedom of expression. But perhaps it should become mandatory for the originator of news that is spread using data mining [the application of statistical methods for analysing particularly large amounts of complex data] and microtargeting [the influencing of attitudes and behaviour] to be named.”

The Times (GB) /

Rules must apply for online media too

The legal framework governing print media and television should also apply for the Internet, columnist Daniel Finkelstein demands in The Times:

“I am a strong believer in free speech but the social and legal rules that govern paper and ink can't just stop with pixels. The attempt by Senators Amy Klobuchar and John McCain to pass an Honest Ads Act in the US is an example. This would apply online some of the rules governing campaign advertisements on television and in news print, including requirements to disclose who has paid for them. And Matt Hancock, the culture secretary here, is right to press on with age verification and other methods to help ensure children access age appropriate content.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Technology not to blame for abuse

The scandal over the unauthorised use of data of millions of Facebook users must not become a general indictment of technological progress, warns technology and media philosopher Yoni Van Den Eede in De Morgen:

“Our shock and dismay is justified, but based on an error. On the one hand we are not prepared to recognise the true impact of technology, and cling to the ideal of the autonomous individual. On the other hand we have the niggling suspicion that technology will leave us behind. Why? Because we refuse to see it as something organic. As something that grows on its own and develops independently of our will to a certain extent, but certainly not completely. Because we are part of the game. ... We are the technology.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Self-regulation doesn't work

What content Internet giants like Facebook may or may not put online must be determined by the law, The Guardian urges:

“For a private American advertising company to set itself up as the arbiter of all the world's political and cultural conflicts is an entirely vain ambition. ... The standards by which the internet is controlled need to be open and subject to the workings of impartial judiciaries. But the task cannot and will not be left to the advertising companies that at present control most of the content - and whose own judgments are themselves almost wholly opaque and arbitrary.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

More power to the users!

Web expert Juan Carlos De Martin calls in La Repubblica for a shift of power in the control of the Internet:

“The users of social networks and search engines need to understand why the things they see on their screens appear there. ... Above all when it comes to political content, it must be clear who is producing it and on the basis of what data they are doing so. Users must be free to decide whether their personal data may be used for political purposes. In other words: right now the weapons are in the hands of those who control the screens. It's time functions were put on those screens that reinforce the power of those looking at them.”