20 Years of Facebook: A Danger to Society

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Facebook was originally developed as a safe space for communication. Read on to learn more about Facebook’s origin.

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  • Thefacebook.com was an offshoot of Mark Zuckerberg’s first website Facemash. In 2003, Zuckerberg set up Facemash.com, which gave users two student’s faces and asked them to choose who was more attractive. Students were reportedly outraged by Facemash, along with Harvard officials who put Zuckerberg on probation for creating it.
  • Zuckerberg did not foresee the behemoth thefacebook.com would become. Zuckerberg bragged in 2004 that Facebook “literally took me a week to make.” The original plan with Facebook was to build an online version of the relationships people had in real life. At The time, Zuckerberg said Facebook “almost didn’t happen” and he was “just about to can it and go on to the next thing I was about to do.” Initially, Facebook users – then only college students – could only send messages and search for peers at their respective universities.
  • In 2004, Zuckerberg had no grand vision for Facebook, saying it would be “cool” to be wildly successful, but that wasn’t “the goal.” In 2005, the New York Times wrote that Facebook was “a company built on substance rather than high expectations. Zuckerberg told the Harvard Crimson in 2004 that having Facebook “be wildly successful is cool, I guess, but I mean, I dunno, that’s not the goal.” After thefacebook.com’s initially success, Zuckerberg said he didn’t “really know what the next best thing [was],” because he didn’t spend his time “making big things.” Zuckerberg said “I spend time making small things and then when the time comes I put them together. Zuckerberg said his reason for building Facebook was “I’m just like a little kid. I get bored easily and computers excite me. Those are the two driving factors here.” In 2006, the New York Times wrote “by all accounts, Zuckerberg [was] motivated by his passion for his invention”
  • Facebook was initially a small project created with close friends. In a 2004 Harvard Crimson article, Zuckerberg acknowledged that his Harvard roommate, Dustin Moskovitz, helped write the bulk of the programming needed to add new schools to thefacebook.com. Later in 2005, Zuckerberg said Facebook was just as much the project of his roommate, Moskovitz, as it was his. Chris Hughes, another early Facebook co-founder, was one of Zuckerberg’s roommates as well. The friends moved to Silicon Valley together over the summer of 2004 and moved into a rental that they named “Casa Facebook.” Zuckerberg & Co were kicked out of their first Silicon Valley rental after an incident involving a zip-line tied around a chimney, leading down to the pool. They called the rental they developed Facebook in, “Casa Facebook.”
  • Zuckerberg said wasn’t developing Facebook for the cash, but rather because it was a fun project that excited him. In 2004, Zuckerberg said he did not create Facebook with the intention of generating revenue. He said he wasn’t interested in Facebook because of the cash, but rather he just liked “making it and knowing that it works.” In 2005, Zuckerberg said that they were not focused on “building something and how to make money out of it,” but rather “always looking to maximize the long-term value.” In 2007, Zuckerberg noted Facebook had “constrained growth” at first. In 2005, the Harvard Crimson wrote that Zuckerberg and his friends “did not guess” that in a little over a year, the company would serve 1.5 million users around the country. When Facebook first started, Zuckerberg paid himself a paltry $65,000 annual salary, and paid for Facebook’s server space out of his own pocket for $85 a month. In 2004, Zuckerberg was quoted saying, “it might be nice in the future to get some ads going to offset the cost of the servers.” When Zuckerberg needed to buy a suit to attend the Grammys, his checking account and credit cards were still linked to his parents. Zuckerberg’s dad recounted that Mark called him and said, “don’t be alarmed when you see the bills.”


  • When Facebook started, it rolled out to other college campuses slowly and methodically. In March 2004, Facebook expanded beyond Harvard, adding schools like Columbia University, Yale and Stanford University, and expanded beyond to other colleges slowly to ensure the site could handle the increased use. In September 2005, Facebook finally expanded to allow high school students to sign up. In April 2006, Facebook allowed employees from companies to sign up for accounts, moving beyond students for the first time.
  • Facebook was supposed to act as a “social utility” for existing relationships, not for creating new ones. In 2007, Zuckerberg told WIRED that he didn’t care about using the internet to make new friends. Zuckerberg was quoted saying “People already have their friends, acquaintances, and business connections” explaining that Facebook was “just mapping” people’s connections “rather than building new connections.” In 2007, Zuckerberg called Facebook a “social utility” rather than a “social network.” Zuckerberg said the goal of Facebook was “just to make it really efficient for people to communicate, get information, and share information. Zuckerberg said Facebook always tried to “emphasize the utility component” of the site.
  • Facebook took off in part because of the authenticity of its users. In 2007, Zuckerberg said a “critical part” of Facebook was its focus on the authenticity of users. The Guardian wrote that Facebook took off “in part because it allowed people to communicate privately – or at least among a small group of friends. In 2010, Sheryl Sandberg said what most drove the effectiveness of social networks was its authenticity. Sandberg contended that many people joined Facebook because people used their real identities and entrusted the platform with their personal information/
  • Facebook was supposed to help people “share more efficiently” with close friends and family. Zuckerberg said “sharing” was the only word on his mind when he dreamt up Facebook. In 2007, Zuckerberg said Facebook users saw the platform as “a more efficient way for them to communicate with their friends and get information about the people around them. \In 2008, Zuckerberg said Facebook helped people “share more efficiently” with the people they talked to “all the time,” like their “close friends and family.” Zuckerberg said he and the Facebook founders believed “people being able to share the information they want and having access to the information they wanted [was] just a better world.” Zuckerberg said Facebook was trying to position itself as a “social operating system” for the internet. In 2009, CNN reported that Zuckerberg hoped to turn Facebook into “the planet’s standardized communication (and marketing) platform, as ubiquitous and intuitive as the telephone.” Zuckerberg said at Facebook, they believed “we’re adding a certain amount of value to people’s lives if we build a very good product.”


  • Fun fact: Facebook was blue because Zuckerberg was red-green colorblind. Zuckerberg said Blue was “the richest color” for him, noting “I can see all of blue.”
  • Zuckerberg wanted Facebook to be clean and easy to navigate. In 2007, Fortune wrote that Facebook had “a strong history” of “retaining an uncluttered, highly structured look and feel.” Zuckerberg said initially that when it came to ads on Facebook, he didn’t “want anything flashing or colorful that disrupt[ed] the flow” of Facebook. Zuckerberg: “If people want to see information about different products or events, that should be their prerogative.”
  • In the early days, Zuckerberg assured Facebook users their information wasn’t for sale and they enjoy strong privacy protections on the site. In 2010, Zuckerberg promised that Facebook “never [sold] your information,” asserting “advertisers who [were] using the site never get access to your information.” In a 2004 interview with the Harvard Crimson, Zuckerberg promised “I’m not going to sell anybody’s email address.” In 2006, Zuckerberg said privacy was central to Facebook. In 2004, the Harvard Crimson wrote that Zuckerberg ensured Facebook’s extensive search capabilities were “restricted by a myriad of privacy options for members” that didn’t want “everyone to be able to look up their information.” Zuckerberg told the Harvard Crimson then that there were “pretty intensive privacy options” that limited “who [could] see your information.” Zuckerberg assured that people had “very good control over who [could] see their information.” In 2006, CBS News noted that Facebook had “long prided itself on privacy.”
  • Facebook’s emphasis on robust privacy controls was part of what helped catapult it. In 2007, CBS ran an article headlined “Facebook promises more consumer privacy.” In 2007, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Chris Kelly, said Facebook had designed the site from the outset to protect users’ privacy and asserted Facebook had developed additional technologies to offer further protections. That same year, Zuckerberg said Facebook had succeeded “in part, because it [gave] people control over what and how they share[d] information.” Zuckerberg later noted that something “that initially got people comfortable” with sharing was that Facebook “offer[ed] extremely robust privacy controls.” Zuckerberg acknowledged “no one want[ed] to live in a surveillance society” and that with Facebook, “people choose to share” the information they do. * Facebook initially offered privacy controls that required users’ explicit permission to share their information. Facebook promised in 2007 that users would have to give their explicit consent, or opt-in, before any information was passed along. Zuckerberg said “one of the most fundamental things on the internet” was “privacy” and “making sure that people ha[d] control over their information. Zuckerberg: “I mean, privacy and making sure that people have control over their information, is, I think, one of the most fundamental things on the internet.”
  • Facebook wanted to create “safe communities” free of “hate speech.” Zuckerberg said part of the reason Facebook was being rolled out to new schools slowly was “because we wanted to create safe communities.” Facebook said it was able to “handle abuses with the accountability of having a real-name culture rather than a ‘screenname’ culture.” In 2008, Zuckerberg said Facebook wanted “to be very neutral” on what speech was allowed on the platform, but at the same time “really careful in not allowing hate speech.”


  • In 2004, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss sued Facebook and Zuckerberg, accusing him of stealing the original idea for Facebook from them. The Winklevoss twins had asked Zuckerberg to help write the coding for a social network they were developing for Harvard and other campuses. Zuckerberg entered into an oral agreement with the Winklevoss Twins and was made partner.
  • Zuckerberg worked on coding for the Winklevoss twin’s website, but slow rolled them so he could launch thefacebook.com. In November 2003, Zuckerberg told the Winklevoss twins that completing their website wouldn’t be difficult. Zuckerberg reportedly failed to show the Winklevoss twins any progress on the site, but assured them it would be operational shortly, explaining that he had been “completely swamped” with homework and finals. The Winklevoss twins said Zuckerberg slow rolled them and launched his own project instead.
  • While helping the Winklevoss twins, Zuckerberg launched thefacebook.com. On January 8th, 2004, Zuckerberg wrote the Winklevoss twins saying the code seemed “to be working great” and promised he would discuss the site with them on January 13th. Zuckerberg failed to disclose to the Winklevoss twins that he was working on a similar site, instead merely mentioning that the was working on a “personal project.” The Winklevoss twins said Zuckerberg was helping them when he registered thefacebook.com on January 11th, 2004.


  • After Facebook introduced News Feed, users began voicing concerns over the privacy intrusions it led to. Facebook received backlash after introducing News Feed, with users saying “very few of us want everyone automatically knowing what we update,” and called news feed “too creepy, too stalker-esque.” WIRED wrote that when Facebook rolled out its newsfeed feature, users were “outraged that Facebook was broadcasting their updates, profiles changes and new friend connections.” Zuckerberg acknowledged users’ concerns over newsfeed and promised to ensure their privacy was protected. After news feed earned users’ ire, Zuckerberg affirmed that privacy was central to the site. Zuckerberg said Facebook was working on giving users additional privacy options.
  • News feed was a step towards Facebook’s “high level ideal” to create “openness and transparency.” Zuckerberg said “the high level ideal” of Facebook was “this concept of openness and transparency.” Zuckerberg believed “over time thing trend[ed] towards becoming more open.” In 2010, Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page that his philosophy was “trying to make the world a more open place.” Zuckerberg said the thing he “really care[d]” about was “the mission” of Facebook, which was “making the world open.”
  • Zuckerberg believed an open web would lead to a “richer web.” Zuckerberg said Facebook led way to a “richer web” that was “more democratically controlled by the people who [were] sharing stuff, as opposed to by some central entity that’s going out and indexing all this information.” Zuckerberg said “a lot of the founding principles of Facebook” were that “if people have access to more information” and were “more connected” it would “make the world better” and people would “have more understanding; more empathy.” Zuckerberg defined Facebook as a company that was “trying to bring innovative tings to people that help[ed] them share more and make the world more open.”


  • In 2007, Facebook introduced Beacon, which tracked users activities elsewhere on the internet. When Beacon was released, Facebook promised it was aligned with Facebook’s “philosophy of user control” and had “advanced privacy controls so Facebook users [could] decide” if they shared their activities. Beacon allowed Facebook to track users’ purchases and actions at dozens of sites and then broadcast that data on the pages of their listed friends. When users bought things on Beacon-affiliated sites, their friends were automatically notified of the purchase, before users had a chance to approve it.
  • Zuckerberg pitched Beacon as an innovative approach to advertising. Zuckerberg believed Beacon would be seen as a friendly product endorsement that generated more sales than traditional advertising. More than 40 different websites had embedded beacon in their pages to track transactions made by Facebook users. When researchers and security experts dug deeper into beacon, they found that Facebook was tracking its user after they’d logged out of the site.
  • Beacon was Facebook’s first brush with user outrage over exploiting their data. WIRED wrote Facebook’s Beacon – meant to revolutionize advertising - “turned out to be many users’ worst nightmare.” CBS News reported that thousands of Facebook users “lambasted” Beacon referrals “as a betrayal of trust,” saying Facebook users “attacked Beacon as a flagrant violation of privacy.” In response to Beacon, 69,000 people signed on online petition entitled, “Facebook, stop invading my privacy!.” Users accused Facebook of adopting Big Brother tactics to make money. Facebook’s Director of Policy Communication, Barry Scnitt, said the Beacon ordeal “underscored how critical is [was] to provide extensive user control over how their information was shared.”
  • Media outlets noted that the Beacon scandal was a new, unique challenge for Facebook at the time. WIRED wrote that Beacon “immediately earned the ire of users.” CNET wrote that Zuckerberg was “plagued by allegations of everything from deceptiveness to invasion of privacy” in the wake of the Beacon controversy. The Guardian wrote that the Beacon controversy was “one of the worst in the short life of Facebook.” CBS News wrote that critics had blasted Beacon as “an unwelcome nuisance with flimsy privacy protections that had already exasperated and embarrassed some users.”
  • Zuckerberg and Facebook swiftly apologized for Beacon and attempted to make changes to strengthen user privacy. In 2007, Zuckerberg apologized, saying Facebook had “made a lot of mistakes building this feature.” Zuckerberg said he was “not proud of the way” Facebook had “handled” the Beacon controversy, saying “I know we can do better.” Zuckerberg on Beacon: “We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them, we simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it." Facebook reversed course soon after and announced it would limit the reach of the Beacon application. Zuckerberg recognized “the problem with out initial approach” to Beacon was “making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in.” Facebook tried to quell the rebellion from Beacon by revising it so that the information gathered was only shared when users specifically gave permission. In the wake of the backlash, companies like Overstock.com and Travelocity announced they had temporarily or permanently pulled out of the program. Beacon was shutdown in 2009 as the result of a lawsuit, at which time Facebook said it had “learned a great deal” from the experience.


  • Zuckerberg recognized the importance of advertisements for Facebook but was cautious during the early years. In 2006, the New York Times wrote that the “key question” for Facebook was “whether it [would] be able to find ways to weave advertising into its site in a way that audiences [would] accept.” Zuckerberg originally shunned venture capitalists when Facebook started, seeking advertisers to pay for the site. Until 2007, Facebook’s advertising was limited to banner ads that ran down the side of the pages and smaller ads that appeared in news feeds.
  • In late 2007, Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook, setting off a pivot towards making ads a central focus. In October 2007, Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook. An October 2007 NBC News report said Facebook “hope[d] to become an advertising magnet.” In 2007, Fortune reported that Facebook’s announcement of Facebook ads “follow[ed] an October 24th announcement that Microsoft [would] take a $240m equity stake in the site.” Facebook initially promised to let users select the advertising that would displayed. Fortune wrote at the time that Facebook allowing users to control which ads they saw built on its “strong history of giving Facebook members control over their online profiles.” In 2007, Zuckerberg said as Facebook’s user base grew, it would give “more ways for advertisers to reach people and communicate in a very natural way.” In November 2007, Facebook unveiled Facebook Ads, a three-part strategy to help advertisers better connect with customers on the site.


  • In 2006, Zuckerberg had “an unusually high share” of Facebook stock. The New York Times wrote that Zuckerberg’s high share of Facebook stock gave him “dominant say in its fate.” They further reported that Zuckerberg “arranged the ownership of Facebook so as to give himself extraordinary power to steer the company.”
  • Despite his controlling stake and grip on Facebook’s operations, Zuckerberg stayed connected to rank-and-file staff during Facebook’s early days. In 2005, Zuckerberg told the Harvard Crimson if you’re gonna be a good businessman, really what it’s about, is finding situations where people win. It’s not about tricking people into doing stuff, it’s not about being a hard-ass. It’s about being comfortable and working in your pajamas, because that’s gonna end up being what’s best for everyone.” In 2008, Zuckerberg sat “at a desk like the other software engineers, writing code.” 2010, Facebook employees described Zuckerberg as an “intense listener” and Zuckerberg was reported to be “involved in almost every new product and feature” according to the New Yorker.
  • Zuckerberg was initially a shy executive, preferring not to speak to the press or make public appearances. In a 2008 article, CBS News wrote that they were “warned that [Zuckerberg] can be awkward and reluctant to talk about himself.” The outlet further reported that Zuckerberg was “learning fast” according to those around him, but “might still wear a hoodie and no socks.” In 2008, The Guardian wrote “despite his love of worldwide sharing, the founder of Facebook [was] less keen to share information on himself. In 2010, the New Yorker reported that Zuckerberg did not enjoy speaking to the press or making public appearances, remarking “despite his goal of global openness, however, Zuckerberg remain[ed] a wary and private person.”


  • In 2008, Zuckerberg hired Sheryl Sandberg, who brought “stability” to Facebook. Facebook hired Sandberg in 2008 while she was the Vice President for Global Online Sales and Operations at Google. The New York Times wrote that Sandberg brought “stability to Facebook.” The Times also remarked that Sandberg was “known for her interpersonal skills as much as for her sharp intellect.” Sandberg was brought on to oversee Facebook’s marketing, human resources and privacy departments. When hiring Sandberg, Zuckerberg said “a big theme of this hire is that there are parts of our operations” that needed “to be taken to the next level.” The New York Times noted that Sandberg’s appointment came “as the competition between Google and Facebook intensif[ed].”


  • By 2010, all of Zuckerberg’s friends who worked on Facebook initially had left. In 2008, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz announced he was leaving the company and asked for his bio and photograph be removed from the company’s PR site. In 2010, the New Yorker reported that most of Zuckerberg’s close friends, who worked at Facebook at the start, had left. The New Yorker wrote that the fact that all of Zuckerberg’s friends who worked on Facebook during its infancy had departed point to “the difficulty some people ha[d] working for Zuckerberg.”
  • Zuckerberg became the Face of Facebook, and the press roasted him. Zuckerberg was described at the time as a “robot” who had been “overprogrammed.” In 2010, it was reported that during preparations for the Winklevoss trial, Facebook’s legal team searched Zuckerberg’s computer and found IMs portraying him as backstabbing, conniving and insensitive. In 2011, Esquire named Zuckerberg in their celebrity hall of shame and in 2011, GQ ranked Zuckerberg as the worst-dressed man of Silicon Valley.



  • Facebook grew from 123 million users to a billion users in a mere four years – leading to a near record-breaking public valuation in 2012. In 2008, Facebook overtook Myspace in monthly unique visitors, getting 123.9 million users compared to Myspace’s 114.6 million. In August 2008, Facebook hit 100 million active users. In July 2010, Facebook reached 500 million uses – and Zuckerberg was named TIME person of the year. In October 2012, Facebook reached one billion users. In 2012, Facebook went public with an IPO of $104 billion, the third largest public offering in U.S. history.
  • After reaching a billion users, Zuckerberg asked “wow, so what do we do now?” TIME wrote “one answer was to put down bets on emerging platforms and distribution channels, in the form of some big-ticket acquisitions” like Instagram, Oculous and WhatsApp. Zuckerberg wasn’t content with having a billion users, saying “if your mission is to connect the world […] that doesn’t mean you’re anywhere near fulfilling the actual mission.” By 2011, Facebook had “worked to spread its tentacles across the web” according to the New York Times.


  • In 2009, Zuckerberg began evolving his view on privacy, realizing user data was the modern-day version of oil and gold. When Facebook updated their terms of service in 2009, it deleted a provision that said users could remove their content at any time. Facebook added new language that said Facebook would retain users’ content and licenses after an account was terminated. That year, Zuckerberg said people needed to go through the “process of realizing that sharing information [was] good” and “slowly sharing more and more information over time.” Zuckerberg said Facebook was more focused on sharing on the platform, rather than how much time they spent on it. When introduced news feed, Facebook’s VP of Product Marketing, Chamath Palihapitiya, recognized there was “a tremendous amount of information being generated” on it.
  • In 2009, Zuckerberg said Facebook was “building towards a web where the default [was] social,” which really meant taking a sledgehammer to user privacy. Zuckerberg said with social networking, “the value people get [was] tied to how much information everyone [was] sharing.” That year, Facebook made users’ profiles public by default and complicated the process of opting out. The New Yorker wrote that when Facebook made the change, users again revolted, claiming Facebook had “violated the social compact upon which the company was based.” The New Yorker wrote: “Unless you wrestled with a set of complicated settings, vastly more of your information – possibly including your name, your gender, your photograph, your list of friends – would be made public by default.” In 2010, Facebook launched a “like” button plug-in on sites across the internet, which allowed it to gather data, using cookies, about users activity on the site, regardless of whether the user used the like button or even knew it was there. To alleviate privacy concerns, Facebook claimed at the time that it would not collect user-identifying cookies abouts their activity on partner websites while they were logged out of Facebook.


  • In 2010, Zuckerberg said privacy was not a “social norm” anymore. In 2010, the Guardian ran an articled headlined “privacy no longer a social norm, says Facebook founder.” In the article, the Guardian reported Zuckerberg believed that because people had “gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people,’ the social norm of privacy had “evolved over time.” Zuckerberg said it was important for companies like his to reflect changing social norms in order to remain relevant and competitive. Zuckerberg: “A lot of companies would be trapped by the conventions and their legacies of what they’ve built.”
  • In 2010, Facebook’s business had to depend on “shifting notions of privacy, revelation, and sheer self-display.” In 2010, the New Yorker noted that Facebook’s business model depended on shifting notions of privacy and that Facebook could make more money from advertisers “the more tha people [were] willing to put online.” A WIRED article from 2009 reported that Facebook was “pushing users to stop being so private with their information.” Zuckerberg believed privacy was the “third-rail issue” online, and complained in 2010 that “a lot of people who are worried about privacy and those kinds of issues will take any minor misstep […] and turn it into as big a deal as possible. WIRED Wrote that after he said the third-rail issue statement, “he then excused himself as he typed on his iPhone 4, answering a text from his mother.” After returning to the conversation, Zuckerberg told WIRED, “we realize that people will probably criticize us this for a long time, but we just believe that this is the right thing to do.” WIRED reported that Zuckerberg said Facebook was “trying to tell people to share information and be comfortable with that.”


  • In 2010, Facebook announced it was sending user profile information in bulk to companies like Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft. A 2010 NBC News article was headlined “privacy is dead on Facebook. Get over it.” The Guardian reported that “the rise of social networking [meant] that people no longer ha[d] an expectation of privacy.” In a 2010 New Yorker Article, the magazine noted that Facebook’s privacy policy changes were “almost always allowing more information to be exposed in more ways. The New Yorker remarked that Facebook’s privacy policies were “confusing to many people, and the company ha[d] changed them frequently.”
  • Facebook stopped being concerned with public backlash to privacy policy changes and began only making minimal changes to features in response to it. In 2010, NPR reported that Facebook had been “plagued by periodic privacy concerns.” That same year, Sandberg acknowledged to the New York Times that it was “completely fair to say we have had our challenges around privacy,” but noted that “Mark took steps to apologize” about the privacy problems. She also said that Facebook had built powerful privacy controls, but they had become too complicated for the average user, and so in response, Facebook simplified those settings. The Washington Post wrote that whenever it released a new product, Facebook “would wait for the inevitable negative reaction on privacy, then announce[d] minimal changes without fundamentally altering the new feature.” In December 2010, Facebook introduced facial recognition for photos to make the tagging process easier. Users had to opt-out of the program if they didn’t want their name suggested in other people’s photo albums. The facial recognition software combed through user’s current photos to match people in new photos.


  • The FTC accused Facebook of promising users could keep their information private, then repeatedly making it public. In November 2011, the FTC announced the Commission and Facebook had agreed to settle charges that Facebook deceived customers over privacy problems. The FTC said Facebook had engaged in “unfair and deceptive practices” over privacy controls on the site. The FTC said Facebook had “deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.” Under the settlement, the FTC required Facebook to obtain permission before sharing a user’s private information with a third party in a way that exceed the user’s existing privacy settings.
  • The FTC said Facebook had allowed outside app developers to access user information – including personally identifiable information. The FTC said Facebook hade allowed advertisers to glean personally identifiable information when a Facebook user clicked on an advertisement. The FTC said Facebook had shared user information with outside application developers – even after a user deleted an account – contrary to representations made to its users. The FTC required Facebook to obtain users’ “affirmative express consent” before it could override the user’s privacy settings. The FTC also required Facebook to undergo an independent privacy audit every two years for 20 years.


  • In 2012, Facebook conducted a one week experiment to study how emotions could be spread on social media. For one week, Facebook studied the effects of manipulating News Feed based on emotions. Facebook manipulated the news feeds of over half a million users to study how emotions could be spread on social media. Facebook engineers running the experiment sought to manipulate the emotional valence of posts shown in users feed to be more positive or negative, and then observed whether their own posts changed to match those moves.
  • Facebook chose not to obtain users permission before running the experiment that affected their well-being. Facebook did not ask explicit permission from those it selected to conduct the experiment on. Facebook found that “emotional states [could] be transferred to others via emotional cognition, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. The study found that emotions were contagious: people who saw more positive posts in turn wrote more positive posts – users who saw negative posts prompted them to be more negative in their own posts. Facebook defended their lack of disclosure or consent, saying users consented to news feed manipulation when they agreed to the site’s terms of service.


  • Between 2011 – 2013, Facebook greatly ramped up spending on lobbying. In a 2011 Washington Post article, A Facebook spokesperson said it was “imperative” that they “scale[d]” their policy team so that they had “the resources in place to demonstrate to policymakers” that they were “industry leaders in privacy, data security and safety.” Between 2009 – 2012, Facebook grew their lobbying team from two lobbyists to 38 lobbyists in 2012. Between 2009 – 2010, the first years of recorded lobbying by Facebook, the platform spent $559,268 on lobbying. Between 2011 – 2013, Facebook spent $11,630,000 on lobbying.
  • Between 2010 - 2014, Facebook increased their political spending immensely and worked to distribute their contributions more evenly between parties. In 2010, Facebook directed 71% ($32,620) of their political contributions to Democrats and only 28% ($12,900) to Republicans. In 2012, Facebook directed 64% ($410,732) to Democrats and 35% ($223,251) of their contributions to Republicans. In 2014, Facebook directed 52% ($426,700) of their contributions to Democrats and 47% ($391,800) to Repuiblicans.


  • Zuckerberg had “little interest” in stepping aside and allow a more experienced leader to run Facebook. In 2008, the New York Times reported that Zuckerberg had “little interest in handing over the reins of his company to more experienced leadership.” In 2009, Facebook created a dual-class stock structure, creating a public class A share and a class B share that had 10 votes each on matters of corporate governance. At the time, Facebook said it had “no plans to go public” when they created the dual class stock structure. Facebook’s spokesman, Larry Yu, said Facebook created the dual-class stock structure “because existing shareholders wanted to maintain greater control over voting to ensure the company [could] continue to focus on the long term to build a great business.
  • Zuckerberg believed Facebook’s success was a result of his control of it. Zuckerberg had always kept a direct hand in controlling the way the Facebook site worked. When Microsoft invested originally invested in Facebook, it did little to dilute the power of Zuckerberg and Facebook “took very little skin out of the game,” according to Fast Company. Zuckerberg believed Facebook’s success was enabled by its unusual corporate structure, which gave him permanent and near-total control over it. Zuckerberg felt tech companies into the issue of having “define[d] themselves too narrowly as a company in a specific medium.”


  • Zuckerberg’s outsized power wasn’t impacted by Facebook going public. When Facebook went public, Zuckerberg managed to hold on to more than one-fourth of the share in the company. Zuckerberg had agreements with other investors that enhanced his voting power almost 60% of total shares. Zuckerberg’s 60% voting power was more control than Bill Gates had when Microsoft went public (49%) and far greater than the power the co-founders of Google had when it went public (16% each). The New York Times Wrote that Zuckerberg’s voting power left “little room for investors to have much input on the company’s direction.” In 2022, despite a majority of shareholders voting to terminate dual-class voting and strip Zuckerberg of his board chair, the efforts failed because of the dual class stocks.