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Facebook is weaker than we thought


It has become fashionable among Facebook critics to point out the size and dominance of the company while denigrating its missteps. In a Senate hearing Thursday, lawmakers questioned Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of security, with questions about the company’s addictive product design and the influence it has on its billions of dollars. users. Many of the questions put to Ms Davis were hostile, but like most Big Tech hearings, there was an odd sort of deference in the air, as if lawmakers were asking: Hey, Godzilla, could you please stop trampling on Tokyo?

But if these leaked documents prove anything, it’s just how unlike Godzilla Facebook is. The documents, shared with The Journal by Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, reveal a company worried about losing power and influence, but not gaining it, with its own research showing that many of its products are not thriving. organically. Instead, it goes increasingly to the extreme to improve its toxic image and prevent users from ditching its apps in favor of more compelling alternatives.

You can see this vulnerability on display in an episode of the Journal series that landed last week. The article, which cited internal Facebook research, found that the company had developed a strategy on how to market itself to children, calling tweens a “valuable but untapped audience.” The article contained a lot of fodder for outrage, including a presentation in which Facebook researchers asked if there was “a way to exploit play dates to boost slogan / la growth in children? “

It’s a crazy sounding question, but it’s also revealing. Would a confident and successful social media app need to “capitalize on reading dates” or concoct elaborate growth strategies aimed at 10-year-olds? If Facebook is so unstoppable, would it really be promoting itself to tweens as – and please read this in Steve Buscemi’s voice? “How are you, comrades? “ meme – a “life coach for the adult?” “

The truth is, Facebook’s thirst for young users is less about dominating a new market and more about avoiding uselessness. Teenage Facebook use in the United States has been on the decline for years and is expected to collapse again soon. Internal researchers predicted daily usage will drop 45% by 2023. The main app for years is losing market share to faster growing competitors like TikTok, and younger users are no longer posting as much content as before.

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