Zuckerberg Leaving Facebook Would Not Solve The Real Problem [Opinion]

Mark Zuckerberg makes a public speech.
Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock

Today, major investors have made it known that they want Mark Zuckerberg out as Chairman of the Board at Facebook, as CNBC reports. Since Zuckerberg owns a controlling share of the company, he is impervious to any such shareholder outbursts, as CNBC elaborates upon.

“Major Facebook investors, including public pension funds and state officials, are pushing for Mark Zuckerberg’s ouster as chairman of the company’s board. The proposal is largely symbolic, since Zuckerberg holds absolute control of the board. But it comes at a difficult time for Facebook, as security breaches plague the company and spur questions around corporate oversight.”

While corporate oversight is definitely lacking at Facebook, the problems run deeper than that. The larger problem may well be the social media users themselves, and the nature of social media as a medium of exchange writ large.

In other words — putting in a better leader would not fundamentally change the nature of the beast.

Facebook is an open social platform for people who do not value privacy and who do not know the worth of their personal data. There is some reason to believe that even if Facebook users did know how valuable their demographic data and private information was, users still wouldn’t care. The biggest supporters of Google’s products and services fully understand the personal information that they are trading — and they are still happy doing it.

The utility or enjoyment that people get from Facebook simply outweighs the downsides. Facebook has kept families together and has been the catalyst for making new ones. Despite all of the recent scandals, there is no sign that the public has any interest in holding Facebook accountable in any meaningful manner.

Cambridge Analytica
  By AlexandraPopova / Shutterstock

An even deeper challenge is the nature of social media. From the ground up, social media platforms are built to make it easy to extract the data that users are freely sharing. A social media outlet cannot be both private and successful.

The mechanism that makes it easy for you to share pictures of your lunch also make it easy for advertisers to extrapolate petabytes of information about you. Users demand that the service be free — and advertisers and researchers are willing to pay. Replace Zuckerberg, and this dynamic will still be in place.

A problem like Cambridge Analytica could have been handled better. But it is doubtful that it could have been avoided altogether, or that it can be avoided in the future.

While Facebook needs to re-examine its relationship with Mark Zuckerberg, we, the users, need to re-examine our relationship with social media. At the end of the day, our propensity to freely share every detail of our lives with strangers and corporations is the biggest problem with social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, or any other service.