20 years of hope, manipulation and data trading

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, is 20 years old. More than 3 billion people are active on their Facebook page at least once a month — more than one in three people on the planet. That’s quite the success story.

But just a few days before its 20th anniversary, any celebratory mood was dampened when Facebook founder and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced harsh criticism at a hearing before the US Senate. “You have blood on your hands,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham shouted at Zuckerberg. “You have a product that’s killing people.”

The subject of the hearing on January 31 was the failure of major internet platforms to protect children and young people. Democrat Dick Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed the criticism in a nutshell.

“Their design choices, their failures to adequately invest in trust and safety, their constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety have all put our kids and grandkids at risk,” he said in his opening remarks.

The dangers of social media are now being widely discussed. In the US, it is being held partly responsible for a mental health crisis among young people.

In an interview with DW, Gerd Gigerenzer, a German psychologist and a specialist on risk research, listed some of the harmful effects of social media. And it’s not just that more and more people are finding it harder and harder to concentrate. “Some studies have shown an increase in insecurity, low self-esteem, depression and even suicidal thoughts,” he said.

In the US, for example, another indicator could be the increased suicide rate among people between the ages of 10 and 25, which shot up by 60% in the decade between 2011 and 2021.

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