Digital Marketing Consultant Ian Walcott said he saw no reason for firms in Barbados and the region who use Facebook to generate a lot of their business to panic, in light of the ongoing so-called Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Facebook has been embroiled in controversy after it emerged that Cambridge Analytica improperly shared data from 87 million users of the online social media and social networking service company.
This week founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose account was one of those leaked, faced questions regarding data misuse in a two-day congressional hearing in the United States.
The data leak, which came to light last month and has since resulted in a dramatic fall off in Facebook’s share price, has angered lawmakers, social media users and advertisers.
Walcott told Barbados TODAY the current development was a significant one to which companies here that rely heavily on the social media network for much of their visibility should pay close attention.
“We are definitely a disruptor in that field. So we have to be paying close attention to what is happening as well,” he said in relation to Barbados TODAY.
“What is important for us as a media house is the ongoing monitoring of how people are using our platform and the proxy of social media of our overall platform to control things like hate speech. Right now we are in the midst of a general election and you know people get passionate in the Caribbean. So we have to be constantly monitoring,” he explained.
There are an estimated 180,000 Facebook account holders in Barbados, which include both individuals and businesses.
When pressed on what the impact could be for firms using the social media site, Walcott said he saw no reason for companies to shift from Facebook in light of the scandal.
“I don’t see a reason for businesses to pull back now. I think Facebook is doing the correct thing. They are being honest and transparent. They said, ‘hey, we made a mistake’, and in all fairness to them a lot of those mistakes were corrected 18 months ago. The whistle was just blown but they were corrected 18 months ago, I don’t think there is a need for a mad rush for businesses locally and in the region to stop advertising on Facebook because we haven’t seen that reflected in how Barbadians are using the platform,” he explained.
Notwithstanding, Walcott said the development could mean a significant shift in the way social media sites operate, adding it could likely mean greater regulation and even more improvements in privacy policies.
Stressing that social media use was now at a crossroads, the digital marketing consultant said he would support any new regulation since it was “a lot more about transparency”.
“Coming out of the Cambridge Analytica scandal as it were, I don’t think it is as sinister as the media and the congress and the senate in the US are portraying it to be. I think it is unfortunate that it took place, but necessary for us to reach this particular crossroad to put some degree of regulation in place,” he said, adding that it would also impact on privacy policies of other major online players such as Google, Apple and Amazon.
“I think there is some cause for concern but rest assured that the US will not allow Facebook to fail for the simple reason that Facebook is one of their success stories. Revenue last year was $40 billion . . . . So you are not going to allow a new fresh innovative company to fail. It is about national pride as well,” he said. (MM)