Year in review: From Cambridge Analytica to shares, Facebook had a tough 2018
You’ve probably watched your Facebook year in review video full of new friends and moments.
The year was also a busy one for Facebook, with new people and events rocking the social media company’s public image and its share prices.
From the less controversial changes to its newsfeed to the massive Cambridge Analytica scandal, here’s a look at what Facebook went through this year.
Facebook’s share price closed at US$124.95 on Friday, Dec. 21 — over $50 lower than when 2018 started. The share price at opening on Jan 2, 2018 was $US177.68.
February- Trolls and Fake News
One of the first major incidents started early in the year, when U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Russian companies and individuals in a plot to interfere in the 2016 presidential election through social media companies like Facebook.
Facebook was stuck in the middle, as lawmakers questioned how fake videos and news articles from Russian troll farms spread so quickly on its users’ pages.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg testified in front of a Senate committee later, telling them he was cooperating with Mueller.
WATCH: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg testifies to U.S. lawmakers in wake of privacy scandal
U.S. committees began looking into how Facebook gathered advertising data and how and why it showed articles from untrustworthy sources.
Facebook is still fighting this type of thing. In a blog post late December, it said it deleted 15 pages or accounts that were showing “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in an attempt to spread misinformation ahead of general elections in Bangladesh.
March – Cambridge Analytica
Arguably one of the biggest stories of 2018 came when Christopher Wylie, a former employee at the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, blew the whistle on how the company was using Facebook data about millions of people around the world.
The company used information on users to target specific ads to certain demographics, which it acquired through a researcher who built a Facebook quiz gathering 87 million users’ data. The researcher was able to gather data from the person who took the quiz, as well as all of their friends, without their knowledge.
Facebook initially said only 270,000 people had used the affected third-party app, but later confirmed that millions of users had been affected.
The consulting firm did work for Donald Trump’s campaign, and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was its vice president.
WATCH: ‘I’m sorry’: Mark Zuckerberg’s apologizes in testimony statement to Senate committee
Facebook had already tightened the amount of data third-parties can access by the time the news broke, but after the scandal, it vowed to do better to protect users’ data.
The companies share price plummeted, losing $100B in value over the course of a month.
March – Accused of aiding genocide in Myanmar
Outside the United States., Facebook faced growing troubles. The United Nations said in March that the social media platform played a role in spreading hate, as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were fleeing violence in the country.
Officials at the U.N. said the military used Facebook to disseminate false information — information that promoted the hatred of the country’s Muslim minority.
While Facebook deleted or suspended accounts known to share hate, including the pages of senior Myanmar military officials, the New York Times reported that the systematic sharing of incendiary posts was much deeper than initially thought.
The Times reports described fake celebrity accounts, created by the military, that “flooded [pages] with incendiary comments and posts timed for peak viewership.”
Facebook admitted it had been slow to act on the issue.
“The ethnic violence in Myanmar has been truly horrific,” Facebook said in a statement in August. “While we were too slow to act, we’re now making progress — with better technology to identify hate speech, improved reporting tools, and more people to review content.”
WATCH: Coverage of the Rohingya crisis on Globalnews.ca
September – Security breach
In September, the company announced a major security breach, in which hackers were able to use a vulnerable portion of the website’s “View as” feature to access people’s accounts.
About 30 million people were affected.
The hackers accessed names, email addresses and phone numbers from these accounts, according to Facebook. For 14 million of them, hackers accessed even more data, such as hometown, birthdate, the last 10 places they checked into or the 15 most recent searches.
Facebook hack: Find out if you were affected, and what it means
October – User loss
Events over the last year seemed to catch up with Facebook in October, when multiple reports said users were dropping the company.
Over one million European users and a survey from Pew Research Center said one in 10 Americans deleted Facebook, citing data security concerns.
December – Another bug, and more privacy issues
Another New York Times report in December said Facebook gave companies like Apple Amazon and Yahoo extensive access to users’ data — no matter what privacy settings the user had.
Those who had access were called “integration partners.” Facebook said users’ had agreed to this level of access.
In all, the report says, more than 150 companies benefited from Facebook’s data-sharing practices.
Just days before the New York Times report, Facebook announced it had fixed another bug that allowed third-party apps to access private photos.
WATCH: Global’s Ottawa bureau reviews top political stories of 2018 and looks ahead
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