Facebook co-founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has taken some hits this year. Among those hits is a big one to his fortune. Once listed as the third richest person in the world, behind Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Zuckerberg is now ranked at number six on the list of the world’s richest people created by Bloomberg. That drop on the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index is the result of a loss of $17.4 billion in 2018.
From stories about how Facebook responds to its critics to charges of an inadequate reaction to Russia exploiting Facebook to influence the 2016 election, 2018 hasn’t been Zuckerberg’s best year by a long shot. Democratic senators Friday demanded a response from the billionaire to charges that Facebook hired contractors to deal with those criticizing the social platform’s privacy practices and its failure to adequately address Russian propaganda by spreading negative information about them.
They are specifically interested in a couple of issues. The first is the level of Facebook involvement in collecting and spreading negative information about elected officials. The senators issued a letter Friday in which they questioned the platform’s ability to self-regulate, saying, “Both elected officials and the general public have rightfully questioned whether Facebook is capable of regulating its own conduct.” Another is the power wielded by the sheer amount of information Facebook has on its users and the ways they could use that information “improperly or illegally” against people pursuing regulations to which Facebook is opposed. Concerns about Zuckerberg’s lack of accountability for his actions have also been raised, especially given the level of control provided by the amount and type of stock he holds in Facebook.
Facebook's troubles have cut Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune by $17.4 billion this year https://t.co/CITUrDjtfn
— Bloomberg (@business) November 17, 2018
The letter released Friday included a series of questions for 34-year-old Zuckerberg. Among those questions were some that attempt to determine whether news about contractors hired to retaliate against Facebook critics was true and, if it is, just how much money was spent on this effort. The questions also include some about whether or not actions were taken to hide information about foreign interference in the 2016 election from government officials. Facebook has denied all of these charges. Newsweek reported that Zuckerberg testified before Congress earlier this year that Facebook had identified meddling by foreign entities too late and that once it was identified, it was quickly addressed.
Facebook stock closed at $139.53 Friday, its lowest price since 2017. At the peak of his success in July, Zuckerberg was worth over $85 billion. That number now sits at just over $55 billion.