Is Facebook ignoring the needs of users in emerging markets?

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Is Facebook ignoring the needs of users in emerging markets?

  • A coalition of activists from developing countries is raising their voice against Facebook’s lack of sensitivity towards ‘emerging markets’.
  • Having appeared in front of panels in the UK and US, Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t addressed the rest of the world that consists of 72% of Facebook’s user base.
  • They’ve called on Facebook to change their policies on three accounts.
Activists from India and other countries are dismayed at Mark Zuckerberg’s dismissive attitude towards 72 percent of Facebook’s daily users. This yet-to-named coalition consists of representatives from India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Syria, Philippines and Ethiopia. They allege that Facebook is dismissing majority of its users and answering only to richer countries.

Between these members is the world’s largest democracy, the country where social media may have fueled a genocide, another that deals with state-sponsored troll armies and of course, the devastation of the Syrian war, as per their harshly worded press release.

Over the past few months, #DearMark letters have been addressed to Zuckerberg to highlight how his social network is undermining the democratic fabric of developing nations and adding fuel to the fire where ethnic strife emerges.

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They claim that the social media giant expands into ‘emerging economies’ without regard for welfare or possible consequences. Because of this approach, whenever Facebook comes into a new country it has no grasp over the basic context, local linguistics or the human resources required. Despite being an online platform, their behaviour results in ‘in-real-life’ (IRL) consequences such as loss of life.

Having met with Facebook, they’ve put forth three specific calls for action. First of all, they want the company to re-commit enforcing equal standard across all the nations where Facebook is present. Secondly, an external human rights organisation should be allowed to conduct an audit of all of Facebook’s operations and products.

Last of all, and probably most importantly, Facebook needs to enforce continued transparency, not just when the need arises. Benchmarks and specific processes need to be defined and tailored to specific countries or context.

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Ignoring India

The world’s largest democracy encompasses Facebook’s largest user base. Yet, the government had to issue two consecutive inquiries to the social network before a response was issued.

Even when the company came in offering Free Basics, it faced a backlash in the country for trying to implement ‘digital colonialism’. Acting as though Facebook was bestowing a gift to India, many called Internet.org a walled garden. It was barely a complete platform, allowing access to a mere 36 sites, and of course, Facebook. Of course, Free Basics was a resounding failure for the company, with authorities in India ruling against it.

The social network’s most recent data leak through Cambridge Analytica affected 0.56 million Indian users. Even the former vice-president of Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya, has stated that social-media is on the prowl to destroy society with ‘dopamine-driven feedback loops’. Not that it makes any difference to Facebook’s bottom line.
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