On Friday, April 12th, dozens of Facebook users took to social media in a wave. A glitch in Meta, the parent company of Facebook, was causing the Facebook mobile app to automatically send a friend request to any profile that the user clicked on – without the user’s permission or knowledge.
While this might have been a boon for a grandparent attempting to connect with their bingo group for the first time, it was essentially armageddon for every teenage girl searching for more pictures of her crush.
The messages across Tik Tok, Twitter, and Instagram varied in their levels of panic and outrage, but the central theme was the same: This is the end of digital stalking.
Dozens of New Friends
Social media outlets are famous for allowing their users to network securely. Facebook, in particular, focuses on empowering people to share their ideas, offer support, and make a difference in each other’s lives, according to Meta’s 2023 mission statement. When a user decides to add someone as their friend, they enter a mutual exchange that gives them a unique glimpse into each other’s culture, beliefs, and background.
As such, they were understandably upset when Facebook’s 3 billion users realized a glitch prevented them from sharing information selectively.
Luckily, the problem caused equal parts outrage and amusement. Many younger users fielded the concern of others about privacy by spreading the word across Instagram and Tik Tok, warning their fellow Facebook detectives that now was not the time for a deep dive. Not only this but #facebookglitched and #awkward became some of the most searched tags for the day, revealing just how many people Facebook’s new bug affected. Yet, it didn’t stop there.
Glitching Into the Future
With the veritable crisis building, Meta immediately launched a deep dive into Facebook’s software. In an official statement released on Friday, May 12th, Meta’s spokesperson announced that the glitch had been officially resolved.
“We fixed a bug related to a recent app update that caused some Facebook friend requests to be sent mistakenly. We’ve stopped this from happening and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”Meta, The Daily Beast
While a quick scroll through Facebook proved to many users that this statement was true, dozens believed this response was inadequate. Many took to Meta’s page with comments such as “Surely this is a privacy issue!” others revealed that they had already deactivated their accounts.
For Facebook, this downturn in public sentiment could not have come at a worse time. Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would be entering its “Year of Efficiency,” where it would focus on becoming a more nimble organization. This bold claim came with massive layoffs for Facebook’s staff, resulting in the organization cutting 13% of its employees, or 11,000 people.
Not only this but Facebook suffered one of the worst digital advertising glitches in history in April. In order for Facebook to display a company’s ad, Facebook charges companies different prices depending on the exposure the company wants. However, on April 23rd, a Facebook malfunction lumped all of the ads displays into the morning, resulting in thousands of dollars of overcharges.
Alex Golick, CEO of marketing agency Intensify, explained that this was especially detrimental because of the fact that this happened the day after Earth Day. As such, the most heavily impacted companies were organic and eco-friendly. Meta has still not issued full refunds.
“The results were horrendous. It’s the biggest malfunction I’ve ever seen.”Alex Golick, CEO of Intensify
These two glitches resulted in widespread mistrust of Facebook and Meta. According to other advertising experts, if Zuckerberg intends to continue with his current employee relations, he’ll need to ensure that the public wants Facebook to become more nimble.
According to a report by Cybernews, Facebook friend request snafus date back at least five years, creating an increasingly open environment for creepers with less than moral intentions. This is particularly concerning for users of Facebook Marketplace, Facebook’s online auctioning function, since the app allows users to save their credit card information for quick and easy purchases. Many users have begun to worry that their money and addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information will become compromised.
Unfortunately for Facebook, this fear is not unfounded. In an age of digital supremacy where apps encourage users to opt for easy access by sharing personal details and terms and conditions change at the drop of a hat, it could be easy for apps to entrap their users potentially. Now more than ever, experts say that users must pay attention to what data they share with apps because even computers make mistakes.
This begs the question: Is it the end of digital stalking for everyone, or just whoever gets caught?