Facebook is apologizing … again. The largest social media platform in the world has taken an unrelenting PR beating this year, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg being pulled in front of Congress to answer for privacy violations, and then, just last week, being challenged to amend his testimony due to new revelations involving selling user content to outside businesses.
That would be enough for any brand to deal with, but now Facebook is responding to yet another negative news story. This time, the social platform is being compelled to apologize for a glitch that caused some users to post content that was only supposed to be seen by friends or other select groups of people. According to the Associated Press, as many as 14 million of Facebook’s two billion plus users were affected by this “privacy bug” in May.
Facebook claims to have fixed the “bug,” but millions of the social media network’s disaffected users aren’t buying that. The series of PR problems, beginning with Cambridge Analytica and exponentially increased by the revelation that Facebook was still selling “private” user data long after the CA debacle was revealed, have boiled over now that millions of users realized that much of what they wanted private was made public, and millions more are wondering if they will be next. These revelations and the subsequent questions have seriously damaged the trust Facebook has not yet had much time to rebuild.
In its communication after the most recent announcement, Facebook said the company has fixed the issue and contacted the affected users, but with consumer trust in the company already very low, many aren’t buying that message. And, for Facebook, that’s the better of the bad news. Because it’s not just consumers Facebook has to convince of its intentions and above-board practices.
Some in positions of power have begun to call for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Facebook’s business practices, claiming that the company made promises it broke, then failed to act in a timely fashion to correct the mistake and contact affected users.
While there are, at least as of this writing, no moves by the FTC to launch an investigation into this particular matter, the fact that this idea is making headlines poses yet another serious PR issue for Facebook. The company depends on user engagement for its business model to work. But, if users aren’t engaged as they were, this is a trend Facebook can’t afford to ignore.
The company has to find a way to reconnect with angry and disaffected users, many of whom have been burned more than once … And that’s only the highest priority if the federal government doesn’t get involved in a PR crisis that seems to only grow by the week.