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Crisis Experts Say Facebook Is Blowing It on Data Scandal

The crisis-management playbook is pretty simple: Get ahead of the story, update authorities and the public regularly, accept responsibility and take decisive action. Crisis-management experts say that until Wednesday, Facebook was 0-for-4.

Facebook’s two top executives, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, went radio silent after news broke last Friday that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica may have used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to sway elections, including the 2016 White House race.

It was not until five days after the scandal erupted that Zuckerberg spoke up.

Meanwhile, some Facebook users have been leaving the social network or mulling the possibility , and Facebook’s stock is down 9 percent since Friday.

Facebook’s handling of the growing public-relations crisis is remarkable in that one of the world’s biggest companies seems not to be playing by well-established crisis-management rules.

“This will go down as the textbook case study as how not to handle a crisis,” said Scott Galloway, a New York University professor of marketing. “The only thing we know about this and are comfortable predicting is that it’s going to get worse.”

In his statement Wednesday — posted, of course, on Facebook — Zuckerberg acknowledged that mistakes were made, outlined changes the company has undertaken, and accepted responsibility for the problem.

Experts said acknowledging accountability was a positive but the fact that Zuckerberg didn’t outright apologize is a negative.

“My biggest skepticism is that we’ve seen this play before,” said Helio Fred Garcia, a professor of crisis management at NYU and Columbia University in New York. “They’re caught coming short of customers’ privacy expectations. They tweak procedures. But they don’t seem to learn from mistakes, don’t really seem to care.”

Most Fortune 500 companies adhere to well-established crisis-management rules. When video surfaced of a passenger being dragged from an overbooked United…


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