Investor confidence in Facebook weakened a bit on Monday amid continued political pressure and a rare lengthy outage of the company’s apps, sending shares down 4.8% and zapping away billions from CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune.
Zuckerberg’s fortune declined by $5.9 billion to a mere $117 billion in total. (He’s now the world’s sixth richest person.) Top lieutenent Sheryl Sandberg saw her wealth fall to $1.9 billion.
Facebook stock came under pressure from two fronts: an unusually long outage of its namesake platform, Instagram and WhatsApp, a mistake likely costing the company tens of millions of dollars in revenue.
(In the latest quarter, it brought in around $330 million a day in sales.) Facebook last suffered a blackout like this in 2019, when the network shut down for 14 hours.
A decade earlier, in 2008, it went dark for a day. Monday’s outage affected internal systems at Facebook, too, making it impossible for employees to access emails, the internal messaging system known as Workplace, even reportedly some doors at company headquarters.
On September 13, the Wall Street Journal began publishing a series of stories based on a cache of internal documents, revealing that Facebook knew about a wide range of problems with its products — such as Instagram’s harm to teenage girls’ mental health and misinformation about the Jan. 6 Capitol riots — while downplaying the issues in public.
The reports have drawn the attention of government officials, and on Monday, the whistleblower revealed herself.
In an explosive 60 Minutes interview that aired in the United States, Sunday, data scientist Frances Haugen, a former employee in Facebook’s civic integrity unit, revealed that she was the source of the internal documents and research showing the company knew of the harmful effects caused by its platforms.
According to DW, the company’s own findings include knowledge of the harms Instagram caused teen girls’ body image perceptions and a two-tier system of penalties for misuse of its platforms, one for celebrities and the other for the public.
“I’ve seen a bunch of social networks and it was substantially worse at Facebook than what I had seen before,” Haugen told “60 Minutes.”
“The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world,” she added.
In response, Facebook has emphasized that the issues facing its products, including political polarization, are complex and not caused by technology alone.
“I think it gives people comfort to assume that there must be a technological or a technical explanation for the issues of political polarization in the United States,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, told CNN.