What caught my eye in reading this article by Siva Vaidhyanathan was the references to the politically charged, fabricated, or hateful ads that litter Facebook. He writes about the attempt to expose these types of Facebook ads, but recognizes that taking down one hateful ad does not prevent hundreds of other versions of it from appearing elsewhere on the platform. This led me to ponder the relationship between Facebook, those who pay to have their ads shown on the social media site, and the users of the site that view those ads. Vaidhyanathan argues that the attempt to “expose” ads is “a noble idea and one that deserves exploration.”
While this is true, I question how willing a site like Facebook, which already makes so much money in ad revenue, is to support the movement to take credibility away from the ads that are scattered around their platform. After all, why would Facebook proceed in an attempt to convince its users not to believe the ads they come across, and not to consume the content that those ads present, when such ads make them so much money? If more and more ads proved unsuccessful in their goal, whether that be to convince a Facebook user to do anything from buy a pair of shoes to further radicalize their political beliefs, wouldn’t more and more companies and organizations stop paying Facebook to show their ads? Wouldn’t this result in a decrease in revenue for Facebook?
Zak Stambor explores, in his article “While Facebook’s Growth Slowed in Q2, its Ad Revenue Jumped 42%,” how, in comparison to last year’s 70 million new monthly users in the second quarter, only 38 million signed up for Facebook this quarter. Despite this decrease in activity, Facebook’s ad revenue has increased by 42.3%. While Facebook is still the world’s largest social media network, at 2.2 billion monthly users, it has supposedly missed expectations of growth. Time Magazine cites a criticism of how misinformation on the social media platform sparked violence in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka, and that continued outrage over privacy and content has caused disengagement with the site. Ultimately, it seems to me as though ad revenue is too valuable to Facebook, especially now that they’re facing larger politics and security-based issues. Hence, I believe we cannot expect to see any sort of disaffiliation between the platform itself and the specificity of its ads unless its in an effort to save face.