Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are in turmoil over leaks



Pictured above is Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica, the tech company caught up in a scandal over using Facebook profile information during the 2016 presidential elections.

Noah Loewy, Staff Writer

Facebook has been under fire recently after Canadian whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed that the tech giant disclosed the information of eighty-seven million users to Cambridge Analytica, a tech firm which worked closely with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.  According to Wylie, after gaining the information, a composite profile was created to examine the overall demographics of American Facebook users with the intent of using the data to create specific advertisements which would lead them to vote for Trump.  Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, recently attended his first congressional hearing on April 11, where he was questioned on censorship, privacy, and whether information was sold to Cambridge Analytica.

A key issue that was brought up at the hearing was Facebook’s alleged suppression of conservative speech, and censorship of conservatives using Facebook as a political platform.  Zuckerberg asserted that his liberal views have no effect on the platform’s content, although numerous studies refute his claim. 

“Facebook’s repeated censorship of conservative media should concern everyone, because it is a complete violation of our freedoms. The company should not discriminate against any political beliefs, and everyone should be treated equally online,” said junior Nick Scardignio.

In a May 2016 report, Gizmodo found that Facebook had purposely and routinely suppressed conservative stories from trending news about the ongoing Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Mitt Romney, and Obama administration scandals.  This poses an important question: Should companies like Facebook be allowed to censor certain beliefs? Many Schreiber students don’t think so.

“Highly prejudiced content that incites violence should most certainly be removed from Facebook,” said junior Ben Goldstein.  “But, if it is respectful and simply advocating for an opposite viewpoint, censoring it would be tyrannical.”

However, it is essential to acknowledge that Facebook is a private company, and the right to free speech applies to them as well.  Therefore, this is an issue of morality, rather than constitutionality.  The company has the constitutional right to allow and prohibit whichever content they choose, and there should be little to no government regulation regarding that, with the exception of prejudice or violent content.  The recent Facebook scandal brings a similar issue to the spotlight, regarding selling or giving away information.

“Personally, I think it is horrible that Facebook gave away people’s information to a third party.  Facebook is meant for people to communicate, not political campaigning,” said freshman Allie Salzman.

Many people share the sentiment that this place where people convene online should be removed from any politically motivated tactics.  When the social media platform itself seems to be campaigning for a certain party, many questions start to surface.

The key to this debate lies in Facebook’s extremely lengthy Terms and Conditions.  The document states that “when you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos) on or in connection with our products, you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content.”  Technically, by accepting these conditions, the users are giving Facebook permission to give away information they share.  In reality, the vast majority of Facebook users agree to these lengthy terms without reading the content or contemplating the implications.  This poses a large problem.

“I, like many people, have never read the Terms and Conditions of a product that I have bought.  Even though it contains important information for the customer, these documents are simply way too long.  If they were simplified, they could actually be reviewed by the customer instead of being skipped over all together,” said freshman Rajen Parekh.

It seems that large corporations such as Facebook deliberately over-complicate the terms and conditions of using their products for the sole reason of tricking the consumer.  This is an issue that should be questioned at the national level, as Facebook has decided to abuse the privacy of its users.

Current speculation suggests that Russians obtained the Facebook data and used the information to meddle in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.  Clearly, this type of misuse poses great concern and is in sharp contrast to the, “republic, for which it stands.”  Zuckerberg insists that he has been kept in the dark and that Facebook was unaware of Cambridge Analytica’s intention to use their data for this reason.  As the congressional hearings continue to play out, Americans will learn more about the steps both Facebook and Congress will take to ensure the privacy of American people, and the integrity of our country.