Social media companies have faced incredible scrutiny in response to sometimes supporting or abetting nefarious actions or characters. As reported by the BBC, “UN human rights investigators have since concluded that hate speech on Facebook played a key role in fomenting violence in Myanmar. The company admitted it had failed to prevent its platform being used to “incite offline violence” in Myanmar” . On February 11, Rafael Frankel, Director of Policy, APAC Emerging Countries, announced that the Myanmar military was banned from Facebook and Instagram, citing, “The Tatmadaw’s history of exceptionally severe human rights abuses and the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar, where the military is operating unchecked and with wide-ranging powers” . At present, the political situation of this former British colony is not ideal. With another version of a military junta in power, it only contributes to the society’s overall corrosion.
According to the World Bank, “Along with Puerto Rico and Honduras, Myanmar is one of three countries most affected by climate change in the period 1999-2018 according to the 2020 Global Climate Risk Index and 19th out of 191 countries on the INFORM Index for Risk Management” . A significant reduction in poverty and previous years of economic growth pointed towards a transitioning agrarian nation.
Back in 2015, it was a different story. Facebook was seen as an agent of change helping Myanmar transform its society. As reported by Chrisitan Caryl for the Foreign Policy, “When people here in Burma refer to the “Internet,” what they often have in mind is Facebook — the social media network that dominates all online activity in this country to a degree unimaginable anywhere else” and “Internet access and mobile phones were virtually unknown in the country, which has spent most of the past sixty years in a political and economic deep freeze thanks to a tiny coterie of military leaders who kept it under tight control — until five years ago, when they started loosening the reins” .
Myanmar’s former leader, Aung Suu Kyi, was a significant beneficiary of Facebook and the convenience it offered to its citizenry to communicate. Being the “first country this size to come online via smartphones” , it would be like the combined populations of Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Tennessee being introduced to the internet via smartphones for the first time. Myanmar presents an example of a contrasting discrepancy of how negatively a social media platform is utilized relative to other countries. The rise and ease of use in hate speech across social media platforms are not limited to Facebook. Still, Facebook attracts attention since it’s the most prominent and dominant global platform. Facebook reported Daily Active Users at 1.8 billion (an increase of 11% year over year) and the number of employees at 58,604 (a rise of 30% year over year) in their 2020 Q4 Earnings Report .
Moreover, Revenue by Facebook User Geography highlights that between Q4 2018 and Q4 2020, the U.S. & Canada region grew at 62.86%, whereas the Asia Pacific region grew at 73.72% . Facebook derives the majority of its revenue from the U.S & Canada region, but it is interesting to see how differentiated its revenue streams are. Even though Myanmar has caused international turmoil for this communications Mega-Cap, it is still a highly differentiated service that can deliver beneficial results when partnered with appropriately.
DipNote, the Official blog of the United States Department of State, on March 1, 2020, posted, Using Social Media To Protect Civilians from Landmines and Other Explosive Hazards, in which the partnership among the State Department, Mines Advisory Group, and Facebook from 2019 is presented.
The partnership’s goal was to provide “risk education to Iraqis living in areas liberated from ISIS” who deal with landmines and other improvised explosive devices using Facebook ads . The State Department is now looking to further the pilot program into a phase two where “phase two will deliver risk education to more than nine million at-risk civilians in Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, and Vietnam” . The tools available on Facebook are almost universal in scale, with some local exceptions. It is remarkable to think that the same tools used to sow disinformation and paranoia in various political systems worldwide can be used to a more significant benefit.
In September of 2020, Facebook announced the opening of an office in Lagos, Nigeria, five years post opening their first in South Africa in 2015 to invest “across the continent to support the tech ecosystem, provide reliable connectivity infrastructures and help businesses grow locally, regionally and globally” .
The release highlights the 2Africa project, a subsea cable project to serve Africa and Middle East regions. “At 37,000km long, 2Africa will be one of the world’s largest subsea cable projects and will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa” . This subsea cable project is promised to bring more significant economic benefits to the region to increase connectivity throughout the continent. According to a post by Najam Ahmad, VP Network Engineering, and Kevin Salvadori, Director Network Investments, “We have seen firsthand the positive impact that increased connectivity has on communities, from education to health care. We know that economies flourish when there is widely accessible internet for businesses” . By helping construct the infrastructure required to connect East Africa to West Africa in a more seamless fashion, Facebook looks less like a social media platform and more like a communications entity.
In February of 2021, Facebook decided to block news in Australia after the government required that social media platforms adequately compensate news organizations for their content. According to Bobby Allyn of NPR, “Under the proposed Australian legislation, tech platforms would have to negotiate with publishers over access to links to news stories. If no deal is reached, the tech companies and media organizations would move to arbitration. In addition, the bill requires platforms to give news outlets notice when algorithms are changed that may affect the visibility and reach of news stories” . Like Myanmar, Australians rely on social media platforms to receive information informing their social discourse.
Juxtapose the duel in Australia to Facebook’s pledge of investing $300 million in January 2019 with groups such as Pulitzer Center, Report for America, Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, Local Media Association (LMA) & Local Media Consortium (LMC), American Journalism Project and Community News Project. Campbell Brown, VP Global News Partnerships, shared the mission, “There are two key areas where we hope to help: supporting local journalists and newsrooms with their newsgathering needs in the immediate future; and helping local news organizations build sustainable business models, through both our product and partnership work” .
Contrasting Australia to Facebook Journalism Project, it can be proposed that Facebook is not looking to be a “just a platform”. Facebook is looking to monetize a deteriorating medium such as the newspaper to leverage its platform’s nuances to create a mega communications platform. Facebook is a social media platform for many looking to connect with friends and acquaintances. Still, like the layers of an onion, Facebook is a multi-layered communicationsMega Cap, the 5th largest U.S. publicly-traded company based on market capitalization, and from what it looks more than just a platform.
According to the Pew Research Center, Facebook was the most used social media platform in America between 2013 and 2019, with roughly three-quarters of Facebook users and around six in ten Instagram users visiting these sites at least once a day . According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, there are 542 publicly elected federal offices , and almost all of those elected officials have a Facebook page. I will share this essay on Facebook to attract more readers and visitors to my website – www.marketrama.com. Facebook is a ubiquitous part of the 21st century, with the pandemic only creating more interaction opportunities. Simply thinking of Facebook as a social media platform would diminish its influence on the 1.8 billion Daily Active Users that access the forum globally. That’s right; a more appropriate term to define Facebook would be a social “forum” in a purely literal sense.
Merriam Webster defines a portmanteau word as “a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (such as smog from smoke and fog)” . A better, more appropriate portmanteau word to describe Facebook would be a “social forum” since the combination of social media implies that the platform strictly provides media and does not interfere with discourse.
Facebook is undoubtedly involved in public discourse to a degree of unspecified measure. Properties like Facebook allow for macro pluralism, but how much will come at the cost of locality is yet to be fully quantified. Early investors and management executives of Facebook are publically vocal of the company in its current version and warn investors of potential hazards. Meanwhile, at 1.96% portfolio weight in SPDR® S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY), the fifth-largest holding after Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet, it is fair to say that the company is not going anywhere anytime soon.
5 Mutual Funds and ETFs based on total % of Facebook Inc Shares
Authors Note – I directly do not own shares in Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB). I do participate in the Fidelity Zero Large Cap Index Fund (NASDAQ: FNILX) since it provides a good exposure to Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB) at 1.93%. The views, or comments expressed in this essay reflect personal reflections and observations. The content on this page is not a direct recommendation or invitation to invest in shares of (NASDAQ: FB). Readers are recommended to use the content for strictly informational and educational purposes. It is highly recommended that readers conduct their own due diligence prior to investing in shares of Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) or in the stock market. Past performance does not guarantee future results but can serve as an indicator.