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Facebook: Profits over People

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I was shocked to learn that Facebook (allegedly) puts profits over people. Or I would have been if I knew nothing about Facebook or American capitalism. “Profits over people” is a core principle of how our economic system operates, right up there with “money talks.” While Facebook has weathered numerous controversies in the past, it might finally face serious consequences for its alleged misdeeds. In many ways, the testimony of Frances Haugen served to confirm views about the harms and dangers of Facebook and its associated products, such as Instagram. Most importantly, she provided a trove of Facebook documents to support her claims. Pushed into playing defense, Facebook has decided to borrow the playbook used by tobacco companies in response to analogous misdeeds, such as launching ad hominem attacks on  whistleblowers and critics . While the tobacco companies and Facebook obviously differ, there are some fundamental similarities. They both profit from products they know are dangerous, with the products often intentionally made more dangerous to boost profits. They also both aggressively target the youth, following an ancient strategy. Like tobacco products, Facebook seems even more harmful for young people, making this targeting even more morally reprehensible. But perhaps the tobacco company analogy will hold in other ways. After years of deceit, the tobacco industry eventually had something of a judgment day. Many governments began imposing or expanding their regulations, there were huge settlements, and a decline in smoking. Some predicted that the days of big tobacco were over. However, tobacco companies proved quite resilient. In 2001 American tobacco companies had $78 billion in revenues. In 2016 this was $177 billion. While cigarette sales are still declining, tobacco stocks have been performing extremely well. Given that Facebook has vast financial resources and an addictive product line, it should be able to do at least as well as the tobacco companies. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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