Can Facebook Reinvent Itself?

Mark Zuckerberg announced on Wednesday that Facebook would be shifting its focus from publicly shared content to “privacy-focused communications.” Zuckerberg’s announcement comes as new numbers from Edison Research indicate that users have been steadily ditching the behemoth platform. According to Edison, Facebook has 15 million fewer users today than it did in 2017, with most of those losses occurring in the coveted 12- to 34-year-old group. Have years of scandal finally caught up with the company? Or have younger users simply gravitated toward other platforms? Either way, Zuckerberg is now floating a new vision for the company — one that may seem curious to those who have kept track of Facebook’s very public missteps.

“We’re building a foundation for social communication aligned with the direction people increasingly care about: messaging each other privately,” Zuckerberg said in an interview on Wednesday. The Facebook creator also wrote in a blog post that he believes “a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms.” Refocusing Facebook on private communications may prove to be a hard sell, given the company’s history of data breaches and surveillance. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to users discovering Facebook had access to more of their personal data than they had previously realized, public breakups with Facebook have often been rooted in the company’s handling of private information.

In February, MSNBC reported that Facebook’s security team mines the company’s network for posts or comments that may be construed as threatening Facebook’s offices or employees. Upon identifying a user that Facebook deems threatening, Facebook’s security team may monitor the user’s posts and direct messages, or even use the app to track the user’s location. People the company has identified as threatening may be placed on what employees call a “BOLO list.” (BOLO is a law enforcement…

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