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Zimbabwe: Facebook’s monopoly – time for Zim to get into the social media fray

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Features writer

It is often ridiculed that Facebook and Google share an internet marketing duopoly.

In 2004, almost six years after Larry Page and Sergey Brin started what was then Google, Mark Zuckerberg founded what is now a billion-dollar company, Facebook, and the company has made the word busy an understatement ever since.

After the milestone of one billion users was reached in 2013, Facebook’s Internet presence rose from impressive to unprecedented and has increased from year to year since then.

As if its user base wasn’t wide enough, the company was able to further increase its market share on the Internet by acquiring additional social media assets: In 2012, Instagram bought Instagram for $ 1 billion; 2014 purchase of Whatsapp for a staggering $ 21.8 billion based on the company’s share price at the time of purchase; and shortly thereafter, Oculus, the industry leader in virtual reality, bought for an additional $ 2 billion.

According to company reports, Facebook played around 2.9 billion users in 2020, Whatsapp 2 billion users and Instagram just behind with 1.3 billion users.

Since then, the company has been making allegations of attempting to monopolize the social media industry, which, given its acquisitions, may well be right now.

These aren’t the only allegations that Zuckerberg and Facebook have faced; They will also come under attack for improperly handling information and selling data to other companies for financial gain amid political and social turmoil. In place of these allegations, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated the company’s failure to protect the user’s data from British consultancy Cambridge Analytica; Data used to influence voters during Donald Trump’s successful 2016 election victory.

It is alleged that the company’s CEO Zuckerberg, along with COO Sheryl Sandberg, were both named in the FTC’s original complaint; However, the couple were evacuated from harm with a whopping $ 5 million payment to the FTC, 46 times more than they would have originally been sued.

Subsequently, on December 8, 2020, the FTC launched an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook in hopes of averting the monopoly powers the company has gained by forcing them to deviate from Whatsapp and Instagram.

Although at first glance it appears unfair that a government agency, or in this case the FTC, is assisting in this lawsuit by 46 US states, the Territory of Guam, and the District of Columbia, its will about the independent financial operations of a company only in in the sense that their ever-increasing stocks are available for purchase, concerns about their growing monopoly and the man behind their wealth seem justified.

On Monday, October 4, 2021, the internet felt how much of the ubiquitous space that users are occupying belongs to Facebook.

The service outage was felt all over the world and affected people all over the world as Facebook and all of the companies it covers, Instagram, Whatsapp and Oculus, were disconnected from the internet.

Although the cause of the outage was not disclosed to the public, this unique event occurred primarily for one reason: the physical infrastructure responsible for Facebook’s servers, as well as that of the acquisitions, are centralized to disseminate information about all of the platforms that fall under Facebook, which means that a problem with one of their servers would affect all of their servers.

This approach to data management makes it easier to manage information across platforms belonging to Facebook, and eases the surveillance capitalism that Facebook has used with its approach to user data, which has become its greatest asset to date.

The regional impact of this global platform meant that many people in Zimbabwe were unable to perform, considering that WhatsApp and Facebook together make up most of the information dissemination in our country.

It should raise incredible concern that the social media platforms that we rely on in Zimbabwe are facing such aggressive scrutiny for multiple breaches of business loyalty, such as monopoly, breach of sensitive data and user privacy, and casual disregard public safety in the promotion of information. In a country of 14 million people, according to datareportal.com, around five million Zimbabweans are active internet users, which may not seem like that many; However, when you consider that, according to Quartz Africa, Whatsapp accounts for 44 percent of internet usage in Zimbabwe, the effects of a data blackout become more apparent.

On Sunday, October 3, 2021, a former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower revealed herself as Frances Haugen.

Amidst many allegations, Haugen accuses Facebook, under the sudden instruction of Zuckerberg, of disregarding user privacy, jeopardizing public safety by supporting misinformation campaigns, and rejecting proposals to block hate speech and bullying that are more than widespread on the site.

Haugen claims that Facebook is harnessing the negative energies on social media to keep users engaged, keep them online longer, and allow the distribution of additional advertisements that, in the best case scenario, would lead to customer acquisition for brands that market through Facebook.

In addition, she claims that Facebook picks the news that will drive demographics, which hinders rank five, especially in third world countries like Zimbabwe, where a lot of information is first found on Facebook and then shared through applications like WhatsApp.

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Amid allegations and confusion, China and other similar states where Facebook and other social media applications are banned is untouched.

China already has a multitude of applications through which its citizens can exchange and consume information, such as: WeChat, the Chinese solution for Facebook; Sina Weibo, an alternative to Twitter for Chinese citizens; and Tencent QQ, an instant messaging option alongside Facebook’s own Whatsapp.

This author does not suggest that Zimbabwean citizens turn to Chinese applications to seek refuge from suspicious data handling and inexplicable network outages, nor does he indict Zimbabwean programmers and inventors.

The author just wants to inform so that the citizens of Zimbabwe will know that it is possible for a well-designed domestic application to take advantage of the empty social media market in Zimbabwe. You can read countless stories about innovation in Zimbabwe on Whatsapp, where companies are making themselves available to the general public by shifting part of their business to the application, or young entrepreneurs using Whatsapp’s market share in our country to pave the way find to feed themselves.

There are questions in these actions.

Questions to which we are the answers.

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