Facebook Fined Five Billion Dollars Over Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Published on July 12, 2019

The United States Government has been working to figure out how to deal with the information that Facebook Inc. shared the private information of over 87 million of its users to a company called Cambridge Analytica, which used the information to create highly specific political campaigns that impacted elections around the world. After the scandal was revealed, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to discuss in front of the United States Senate how he thinks data protection should be handled or regulated in the future. The $5 billion fine is record breaking, but is still only a fraction of Facebook’s total valuation.

Cambridge Analytica – A Refresher

When Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie blew the whistle on his employer to the publication The Guardian in 2018, he revealed how Facebook failed to protect the data of 87 million of its users during the heat of the 2016 election period as well as the months leading up to the Brexit vote. The young data scientist worked for Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that worked with political campaigns to develop strategies to be implemented on social media. After collecting user data collected through Facebook, the company was able to use that data to persuade millions of voters to feel a certain way about a political subject. The information was harvested, analyzed, and used in the formation of political rhetoric that would appeal to whichever demographic a campaign was targeting.

In countries like the United States, it involved analyzing how users of a certain demographic communicated with one another, what their habits were, and how they wanted the country to change. Cambridge Analytica looked at information that users shared on their social media pages and used it to form an entire political agenda. In the case with Brexit, for example, it meant fueling the xenophobia and racism that was the very ethos of the election. The company created and shared memes, created fake accounts, paid for seemingly unpolitical ads that would persuade voters, and tapped into the heart of the social network in order to make voters feel more connected to the politics they were voting for.

Today, the company has been disbanded and shut down. Governments around the world are deciding how to fine and punish those involved in the data exposure. Facebook is at the forefront of the discussion, as the Federal Trade Commission has finally come up with a fine amount to present to Facebook over a year later. A Netflix following the scandal, called The Great Hack, is set for release later this month.

FTC Issues Record Fine To Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved of a record-breaking fine to issue Facebook over its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The organization is clearly looking to make a statement with its decision to fine the social networking company $5 billion. Though the amount is just a small portion of its total valuation, the company reportedly only set aside $3 million to deal with its expected fines. Neither Facebook nor the FTC have commented on the decision, which was announced on Friday. Facebook (FB) stock, however, closed on Friday with a rise by 1.8% after the news was released.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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