My partner and I were on the road last weekend, and we pulled into a rest area to grab something to eat. In the building, our only choice was a Subway shop open till 8 p.m. Lucky for us it was 7:45 p.m. When we walked in, the woman working behind the counter was slamming -- and I mean slamming -- the lids down on all the cold fixings, and in between she yelled, "I'm closed."
We pointed out that it was only 7:45, to which she replied. "I ran out of bread." We pointed out that there were shelves of bread behind her. She threw open the lid and flipped hers, saying "What the f*** do you want?"
The hate was so palpable. We just ordered a turkey and cheese, with nothing else, and she angrily threw it together and threw it at us.
Hate is everywhere these days, and we aren't the only ones who have experienced it. And it's worse in terms of hate crimes, which have reached their highest level in over a decade. Hate speech soars online, particularly for young users. Hate speech and crimes around Jewish people, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community have all risen in the last few years. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans increased by 150 percent in the country last year.
And now it's becoming clear where all that hate is emanating from.
Most of us remember when we first signed up for Facebook. I was a little late, arriving in 2009 at the insistence of my partner. And most of us recall the innocent posts of those early days. Your name at the top of your page, and your status update coming off your name, i.e., "John Casey ... is at a bar with friends," and an accompanying picture of fun and frolic.
In those early days, when I was a PR person, it was initially recommended that businesses, large and small, stay off Facebook. The main reason was that you couldn't control what was going to be said about your business in the comment section. We wanted companies to avoid being "yelled at" online.
Then around 2008 or 2009, that all changed, rather abruptly. Suddenly, Facebook became a great way to build a community around your business, and most companies used it as a marketing tool, creating an ongoing dialogue with their customers.
Facebook ultimately became a business, a very big business, a behemoth. As a result, shareholders and analysts put pressure on Facebook, like every other publicly traded company, to concentrate solely on profits. What was originally intended by its founders as a way to connect people suddenly became a cutthroat money-making machine.
The whistleblower Frances Haugen leveled some extraordinary and serious charges against Facebook, both in front of Congress in the U.S. this month, and this week before the U.K. Parliament. And what is now following -- cascading is more like it -- are more incriminating stories about Facebook's lust for hate.
Through her testimonies and the document dump that her team provided 30 reporters last Friday, this week has seen a mountain of stories and stunning revelations about all the odium that lies at the feet of Facebook.
Facebook changed its name on Thursday to Meta -- an attempt to foreshadow the virtual and augmented reality that is the future of social media. However, that name change does nothing to erase all of the bad news this week and the company's bad behavior during the last few years.
Facebook acts like a predator in its desire to sign up or exploit children, and some of those children were suffering from thoughts of suicide and body dysphoria issues. Child trafficking existed on Facebook. Unimaginable. Wars were being inflamed around the world. And Facebook, not so surprisingly, played a pivotal role in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and that infuriated Facebook employees.
Last weekend, according to Axios, Facebook warned its employees what was to come this week. "We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I'm afraid," wrote the company's VP of global affairs, Nick Clegg.
How many more bad headlines are still ahead for Facebook? How bad will it get for Facebook a.k.a. Meta?
It's despicable that Facebook allows hate groups, misinformation, and lies to fester, not only about the 2020 presidential election, the COVID vaccine, or transphobia, but so much more.
All this cruelty happened in order to generate and provoke lots of interaction and clicks. More clicks equal more advertising dollars. More advertising dollars means more profits, which leads to bigger stock prices and higher corporate earnings for Facebook. It's the same old story, but this one includes a particularly cruel money-monger.
They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps, and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder and CEO, keeps some dangerous -- and hateful -- company.
Sitting on Facebook's board is Peter Thiel, an out and dubious billionaire private equity tech investor, an initial investor in Facebook, and a man who has no scruples. Thiel's claim to fame is that he is the "most hated man" in Silicon Valley and a villain to the queer community.
The author of a new book about Thiel, Bloomberg writer Max Chafkin, said that "if there's a Trump political party or a Trump faction, Thiel wants to be the Koch brothers to that faction."
Thiel famously organized a secret meeting between Zuckerberg, Donald Trump, and Jared Kushner. Nothing good could come out of a meeting with these four people, and nothing did.
Now we know the truth about what happened at that creepy dinner, from Chafkin's book. Zuckerberg allegedly agreed not to fact-check political posts by Donald Trump's administration, in exchange for Facebook being spared "heavy-handed laws."
And just because Zuckerberg is friends with a gay man doesn't mean he keeps LGBTQ+ hate speech off of his Facebook and Instagram platforms. Those two social media sites, along with YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter -- are all "effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users," according to report by GLAAD earlier this year. The hate and danger spread far and wide.
Zuckerberg, whose original dream was to connect people, disconnected himself from all that was good and noble about Facebook, saddled up with Thiel, and let hate and venom spread, all in the name of keeping the feds away from him and the money coming toward him.
Despite all of the internal research about how detrimental the company was, Zuckerberg kept his foot on the gas, and as a result, people were hurt. Joe Biden proved to be prophetic when he said earlier this year that Facebook was "killing people."
What vehicle has been most prevalent spreading lies about the vaccine? Facebook. What social channel has wielded the most power when it comes to spreading the "big lie" about the 2020 election? Turns out it's Facebook. Who spreads religious hatred in India? Facebook. How was ethnic violence being encouraged in Ethiopia? Facebook. Protect the brand first. Users be damned.
No matter how hard the company tries, name change and all, Facebook's secrets will be revealed eventually. And when that bad information starts to come out in an unvarnished form, there will be some sort of reckoning by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Congress, foreign governments, or Facebook users. Haugen has opened an enormous Pandora's Box.
The day after Haugen's devastating testimony, Facebook and Instagram inexplicably went down. The company said it was an internal error. Could be. However, was this a case of the dog wagging the PR tail? Billions were left thirsting for their Instagram and Facebook. Was it the social giant's way of implying, "Want them to shut us down? Then what will you do?"
Facebook's investors could care less about all the hate. In fact, the only thing that would make them hate Facebook is if all these hateful clicks and shares were to shut down, and the users went away. And if the money dried up.
This week saw the release of Facebook's third-quarter earnings report. It fell short of analysts' expectations ($29.04 billion earned versus $29.45 expected -- that is just one quarter), but reported user growth at 12 percent of new monthly users across its apps. Say whatever you want, they'll just keep signing up.
Will Facebook continue to chase the almighty dollar, and new users, regardless of who, how, or what it harms? In light of all the withering revelations yet to come, will users still keep coming to Facebook? Will our accounts go dark in protest? Or will Facebook make them go dark to tease its billions of users about life without their news feeds?
Will we keep logging on or opening the Facebook app because we're addicted to it? Will all of our dependence end up saving Facebook? Does Meta mean that Facebook turns the corner and works to redeem itself? Will Facebook become the social media site we love to hate?