This case describes the role of Facebook in society and its degree of responsibility to protect the privacy of user data and address the real-world impacts of misinformation and fake news across its site. Facebook’s idealistic goal of giving people the power to build community and bring the world closer together has seemingly backfired as nefarious actors have exploited user data and the site’s infrastructure to advance political and economic goals. Facebook’s leadership has been slow to recognize and acknowledge the influence the site has had on world events, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the Myanmar genocide against the Rohingya minority group. Facebook has also been slow to stem the spread of fake news, and addressing user data privacy is at odds with the company’s reliance on targeted advertising as its primary source of revenue.
This case offers students the opportunity to discuss the changing social and business environment in the era of the Internet, especially issues related to privacy and free speech.