The New York Times examined the world’s largest social media company in a series of stories about privacy and data sharing that showed the exorbitant price that users and society have paid for allowing Facebook to guzzle our personal information. One story exposed how the British-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, while working for President Trump’s campaign, harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, developing techniques that underpinned its work during the 2016 election. Instead of confronting this and other databreach problems, the Times found that Facebook’s leaders, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from the public by delaying, deflecting and denying the extent of the problem. Facebook’s power was also harnessed and exploited to inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, including anti-Semitic campaigns and a virulent and systematic anti-Rohingya propaganda campaign run by the Myanmar military. The series shocked millions of people, who realized just how much personal information the big tech companies have on them, and many individuals opted to cancel their accounts. The fallout from the series was substantial: Facebook’s growth dropped, its leaders were summoned to testify before Congress and Cambridge Analytica declared bankruptcy and shuttered its operations.
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