It’s that time of year where we find out who has been naughty, and who has been nice. According to Yahoo Finance readers, there is one company that is unquestionably at the top of the naughty list: the company formerly known as Facebook. This development might come as a surprise (It shouldn’t – Ed) to the social media company, which changed its name this year to Meta, seemingly with the hopes of shedding the reputation it’s acquired for engaging in shady behavior to boost its profits at the expense of peoples’ mental health.
The poll taken by Yahoo Finance is an annual tradition, where it selects the best company of the year based on market performance and innovation, and also polls its readers on who they think is the worst. Surprisingly, the best company was none other than Microsoft, which Yahoo notes smashed through the $2T market cap barrier, and also saw its stock price go up 53 percent this year. Apparently, people haven’t been paying much attention to its Edge browser shenanigans, because there have been enough of them in 2021 to add them to the naughty list as well.
That leaves Facebook/Meta, which was voted the “winner” of the poll asking readers which company upset them the most this year. The “worst company” poll earned 1,541 votes in total, with Facebook/Meta receiving eight percent of the vote total. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider this: the social media company received 50 percent more votes as “the worst” than the second-place finisher, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Based on the vote totals, it seems there was not much ambiguity here about which company upset readers the most this year.
The reasons for this outcome are not hard to understand, as this was easily the worst year in Facebook history as far as its public perception is concerned. First, there was a whistleblower who gave a trove of internal documents to the Wall Street Journal and also testified before Congress in order to shed some light on the company’s business practices. The former employee, Frances Haugen, revealed a number of questionable practices, such as the fact that the platform’s algorithm is designed to promote divisive content since it increases engagement, and that the company was targeting tweens because it saw them as a “valuable but untapped audience.”
As if all that wasn’t enough, Haugen also revealed the company has been lying about its shrinking user base to investors, and that it was also trying to figure out ways to target kids as young as six years old to compensate for teens leaving its platform for other social media apps. It also banned a developer who created a plug-in that removed users’ newsfeeds to prevent endless doom scrolling and shuttered an internal research team that was studying social media addiction on its platform.
Given this context, it’s not a surprise that after all this was revealed, the company suddenly announced it was changing its name to Meta, but even that was widely mocked as the reveal videos were as corny as squirrel feces. Whether or not Facebook/Meta will be able to change its public perception is something we’ll have to discover in 2022, but given how many companies have expressed interest in the Metaverse Zuckerberg wants to create, it’s not a foregone conclusion that they will win this “award” again next year. And to be fair to Facebook/Meta, at least it’s not offering Facebook and Instagram users NFTs, yet.