The roiling and rolling disaster that is Facebook is like the proverbial slow-moving car crash: hard to watch and difficult to look away. But usually you're off on the sidelines. The problem for many businesses is that they advertise on the platform.
To understand the danger of those cars starting to slide your way, remember for a moment the Laura Ingraham disaster from earlier this year. The Fox News personality had slammed one of the kids who lived through the Parkland shooting and then found advertisers putting as much space between themselves and her show as they could.
Such things don't necessarily last forever, but they can so long as marketers view the advertising medium as being unsafe. That is, while someone keeps the controversy churning.
That's why what Facebook will potentially confront is so much worse. The story never seems to end. The latest news on that front was that The New York Times reported Facebook had given tech companies more access to people's personal data than previous known. Here's just one paragraph from the story:
Facebook also allowed Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write and delete users' private messages, and to see all participants on a thread -- privileges that appeared to go beyond what the companies needed to integrate Facebook into their systems, the records show. Facebook acknowledged that it did not consider any of those three companies to be service providers. Spokespeople for Spotify and Netflix said those companies were unaware of the broad powers Facebook had granted them. A spokesman for Netflix said Wednesday that it had used the access only to enable customers to recommend TV shows and movies to their friends.
Well, holy crap. Even if companies are truthful and didn't use these abilities, that's an amazing amount of liberty Facebook took.
Which is the entire point of what the company has faced. It has shown it has little to no regard for users and is willing to use hardball PR tactics to attack and try to discredit critics.
That brings us back to marketers and advertisers. Brands are delicate things, and if you put them in contact with environments that are toxic in any way, they can take on contagion. Look at when major brands found themselves on YouTube opposite videos from terrorist organizations and neo-Nazi groups.
All you can do is bail and find out how to avoid the problem in the future. How many people have you seen contemplating dropping their use of Facebook as users? The only thing preventing mass consumer defection is the lack of an alternative with the same reach. But will that last forever? Probably not.
Time to consider how wise it is to be associated with what has become a toxic platform.