A day after Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg testified before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill about the recent data breach of the popular social media platform, a group is calling for a boycott Wednesday.
Called Faceblock, the group calls for “online protest to let Mark Zuckerberg know that he can do better to protect our data,” according to a post on its Twitter page. It also calls for users to not use Instagram or What’s App, two platforms also owned by Facebook.
Whether the boycott will actually work to move change at Facebook remains to be seen. According to Agnieszka McPeak, an associate professor in the University of Toledo College of Law who is an expert in social media and data security, the financial impact on Facebook “may be just a blip on the radar,” but the boycott can still accomplish some goals.
“Facebook’s main source of profit is from advertisers. A boycott will have an impact in terms of ad views, clicks, and other metrics that matter to Facebook’s advertisers,” she said. “More broadly, a boycott can send a message about consumer dissatisfaction and a demand for change. Whether it sends a powerful enough message is tough to say.”
Ms. McPeak said a mass exodus of users would be of a bigger impact, but “a day-long boycott is at least more realistic than the Delete Facebook movement.” She said the #deletefacebook hashtag was recently trending on Twitter.
The Faceblock website includes links to pre-made posts for Facebook and Twitter regarding the boycott, along with visual elements to help push the event. While the boycott might not affect Facebook’s bottom line immediately, Ms. McPeak said it can work in two ways: as a business, Facebook will try to respond to consumer demands; and it wants to stay self-regulated.
“Facebook has incentives to respond to user demands because it’s good for business and it helps keep the government from stepping in with potentially burdensome regulations,” Ms. McPeak said. “If consumers express enough outrage over Facebook’s practices, Facebook may react by changing how it does things.”
In addition to the boycott, Ms. McPeak suggests consumers contact the Federal Trade Commission, local regulators, and their government representatives to voice their concerns.
“This could lead to greater regulatory oversight or new laws to protect consumers,” she said. “And sometimes consumer protection groups or others bring class action lawsuits or other legal action to try to enforce privacy rights against companies, which are not always successful. But companies do change their practices once they are exposed to legal or other liability.”
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