Wilson: It’s time for Zuckerberg to step down

Peter Wilson, Staff Columnist

It would not be surprising if you are one of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users. It would be surprising if you have no experience with the social media giant.

As many know, and as was depicted in the movie “The Social Network,” Mark Zuckerberg came up with the idea for Facebook with his college roommates. Zuckerberg still serves as the CEO and Chairman for the company today 14 years after its creation.

In recent years, Facebook has endured numerous scandals surrounding their gathering and usage of people’s personal data entered into the social network. The data was gathered to aid the program in showing you customized ads and marketing efforts, as the company has said. But, this data has been leaked and stolen on multiple occasions, with some leaks affecting over 50 million users.

Zuckerberg has weathered the storm of each scandal and remained CEO of the company. He has even testified before Congress on multiple occasions on the subject of private data usage, and the misinformation campaigns launched by Russian agents during the 2016 presidential election.

But with each scandal, Zuckerberg has shown more and more that he must step down as CEO of Facebook. He must allow new leadership to steer the company’s policies on data collection, usage and the spread of misinformation in a new direction.

As I remarked, Facebook has over 2.2 billion users worldwide. That’s a larger population than any single country. It is also larger than the combined populations of Europe, the United States and all of South America. Facebook’s user population is the largest community in the history of the Earth.

Data is actively being collected on every single one of those users based on their friends, the pages they view, their friends’ friends and several additional metrics. Zuckerberg’s mission for the company has pushed it into becoming an enormous data-mining operation.

Why is all this data collected?

Supposedly to improve the overall experience for Facebook users in terms of catered advertising and friend suggestions. Though this may be, that doesn’t change how often this data has been compromised. The most notable theft was undertaken by the British company Cambridge Analytica, which stole data from Facebook during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and during the build-up to the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom in 2016. This data was used to implant far-right ads across Facebook and other social media platforms to drum up support for Donald Trump and the Vote Leave campaign in Britain.

In response to this data breach and breach of personal trust, Zuckerberg and Facebook apologized, and promised to change their policies regarding third-party companies access to their data pool. Zuckerberg made similar promises to Congress both times that he has testified. Little appears to have changed though, as problems continue to persist.

Facebook’s own Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg was quoted in September, saying that Facebook was “too slow to see this and too slow to act.” Facebook’s own employees seem to doubt Zuckerberg’s leadership.

Facebook has been ripe with issues, both of privacy and politically. The website has been used to keep in contact with loved ones, but also to sway public opinion in the U.S. and the U.K. The website has been manipulated by foreign and domestic agents to obtain people’s private data, which was only given with their consent on the assumption that it would be kept private.

Facebook is not an inherently evil or detrimental website, and Zuckerberg has done well up until this point. But the internet behemoth needs someone new who can guide the company toward a better, more secure direction.

Peter Wilson is a second-year biomedical engineering student on the bioinformatics and computing track. He works in the Gustafson Lab and can be found on Twitter at @wpieltseorn.