Social Media and Capitalism

This last week was a pretty rough week if you owned stock in one of the social media giants. Facebook made history last Thursday when the stock dropped almost 20% immediately following their earnings call. This drop totalled in $120 billion in loss, which is completely unbelievable.

John Oliver, on his Last Week Tonight had a great segment about this -

Twitter, not to be outdone, also lost about 20% on Friday, following their earnings call.

To me, both of these are extremely concerning. I'm not concerned because those companies are losing moeny, and frankly, if both platforms closed up completely, the world would almost definitely be a better place, however what concerns me is that these massive drops are because both companies have started to hint at "doing the right thing".

Anyone who has been paying attention the last few years has likely noticed that Social Media has become increasingly toxic. We tend to use a blanket statement of "Fake News" and just call it a day. I think that it's very common to think that there is fake news out there on social media, and then think "Well I would never fall for fake news, so it doesn't impact me!", and while you may be good at spotting fake news, it's more complex than that.

The problem is that it's not just news stories. There are also people out there commenting on things that people say, or there are ads in your feed designed to influence how you think or feel about certain things. Maybe you would spot a blatantly fake news story, but maybe these other ads, comments, etc. are influencing the way you think about things in ways that you aren't aware of. Even as simple as putting you in a bad mood about something, or overwhelming you with poisonous political sludge until you mentally check out and stop thinking about what is happening in the country.

Regardless, I could write a very long article about what kinds of things are happening on social media that are the problem, but the main point I'm trying to make here is that both Facebook and Twitter have started saying that they are going to clean things up, and get it back to where they are supposed to be.

My personal opinion is that they will only do some superficial things to get the media cycle off their back, and then not much will change, but again, that's not what this is about specifically.

What really concerns me, is that when Facebook and Twitter simply start talking about cleaning up their platform, and do the most minor adjustments to their platform, such as trying to clean up the ads a bit, and banning fake accounts (bots, etc.), Wall Street crucifies them for it.

This makes me seriously wonder how compatible something like a social network and capitalism really is. This last week we brutally punished these companies for even hinting that they were going to start doing the right thing, and clean up their platforms. Why would they want to continue to try to do that, if this is the result of those actions? If we assume that Zuckerberg or Dorsey actually wanted to clean up their platforms (I don't believe they do, but pretend that they do), I'm not convinced that the board of directors are even going to let them with this kind of fallout.

I'm honestly not sure what we can even do at this point. I do not trust Social Media platforms, and when things like this happen in the stock market, I don't know how we ever can. Unless these platforms figure out another way to make money, or become private again and have leaders with a strong moral compass, I don't see any way that this works out well.