Mark Zuckerberg posted a list of New Year’s resolutions earlier this month. He started off by highlighting his prior success at the three big ones – travel, exercise, and learning a new language. But Zuckerberg’s resolution for 2018 is different. He mentions plans to improve himself and his company in 2018 through decentralized technologies, including cryptocurrency.
Now that January is coming to a close, Zuckerberg seems to be going back on his resolutions. That is, of course, excluding his secret vow to destroy his archenemies the Winklevoss twins once and for all. That one didn’t make it onto his Facebook post, but it’s one he has stuck with nonetheless.
Facebook’s Mission: “Give People the Power”
(By Using Their Personal Information for Targeted Ads)
When most of us think of Facebook, funny memes and cute pet pics immediately come to mind. However, Facebook is one of the most powerful advertising companies in the world. That makes us Facebook’s product, not its customers.
Facebook uses its social platform to make billions of dollars on targeted advertising. In fact, they grossed over 40 Billion dollars in revenue in 2017. Just tell Facebook about your ideal customer base and voila! You just might be on your way to becoming an e-commerce millionaire. Whether you are trying to sell your stock of male enlargement pills or a miracle tea that will melt away the pounds, Facebook can peddle your wares to self-conscious customers around the globe for as little as $1 per day.
Advertisers can target Facebook users based on their age, gender, relationship status, location, income, political or religious beliefs, and any number of a slew of personal and professional interests. Facebook prohibits advertisers from marketing certain harmful products like tobacco, illegal drugs, weapons, or counterfeit documents. But just yesterday, Facebook announced an unprecedented change in policy – it was banning all advertisements pertaining to cryptocurrency.
Facebook Bans Cryptocurrency Ads – But Why?
Starting immediately, Facebook will no longer circulate ads from any cryptocurrency companies. They will be removed by moderators to the extent feasible, and Facebook will rely on flags from the community for the rest. The “intentionally broad” ban includes all digital currencies, exchanges, and Initial Coin Offerings (“ICO”).
According to Facebook, the new policy was created because it wants its users “to discover and learn about new products and services through Facebook ads without fear of scams or deception.” Sounds noble. Since its founding in 2004, scams by Facebook advertisers have separated trusting people from millions of their hard-earned dollars utilizing everything from fake charities to fictional service members. But why ban cryptocurrency?
Facebook blames the crypto industry for the ban. Because cryptocurrencies are “frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices,” they are no longer allowed to advertise on the site. But if you’re pushing ads for the multi-billion dollar male enhancement industry, don’t worry – this new crackdown on businesses who can frequently be misleading or deceptive only applies to financial products and services.
But why is Facebook targeting financial services while leaving alone other industries that people use to perpetrate scams and frauds? The answer may be personal…
Zuckerberg’s Winklevoss Vendetta?
The tech industry is well-known for its famous rivalries. First, it was Edison and Tesla, then Gates and Jobs. More recently, it’s been Zuckerburg versus the Winklevoss twins. The Winkelvii first caught media attention when they successfully sued Zuckerburg for $65 million, claiming that they were the true originators of the Facebook social media platform. In what may have been the smartest investment move of all time, the Winklevoss twins invested $11 million of their Facebook settlement on Bitcoin and later into Ethereum. Back when they invested in March 2013, a Bitcoin was worth about $120. The cryptocurrency now trades at over $10,000, making the Winklevoss twins the world’s first known Bitcoin billionaires (other than Satoshi Nakamoto, the elusive inventor(s) of Bitcoin).
If Bitcoin continues on its present trajectory, the Wiklevii may be having the last laugh. But among famous tech rivals, it’s never really about money; it’s about pride. Zuckerberg’s reputation as a visionary innovator has been smeared by the Winklevoss’ claims, and that is something he has not likely forgotten. Instead, it’s something that may have led him down the dark path of vengeance.
Despite showing clear support for blockchain technology and cryptocurrency just a few weeks ago, Zuckerberg has banned all cryptocurrency advertisements from his site. He blamed the “many companies” in cryptocurrency “that are not currently operating in good faith,” and insisted the ban was for Facebook users’ own good. However, the consumer protection rationale just doesn’t fly. If the company decided to ban all advertisers “frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices,” more power to them. But it didn’t – it just banned cryptocurrencies, leaving all of the fake charities and toxic diet pills free to push content on vulnerable users as they see fit. And where does that leave the legitimate blockchain companies who were depending on using Facebook to generate interest for their products and services?
Facebook’s digital advertising machine is one of the most powerful economic forces on the internet, and Zuckerberg is the captain at the helm including holding Class A “supervoting” shares that allow him to maintain control over the company in spite of owning under 10% of the companies shares. This means he can turn the ship around as he pleases, so long as he can come up with some sort of rational business-related rationale for doing so. Earlier this week, he did exactly that. Facebook’s cryptocurrency ban seems to be an attack on the Winklevoss twins albeit one that may be attempted to be justified by other circumstances. They used Facebook’s money to become billionaires in the virtual currency market after formerly putting a permanent mark on Zuckerberg’s reputation.
The crypto market reacted strongly to the ban, trading in the red across the board for the next 24 hours after the Facebook announcement. At the time of this writing, Bitcoin was trading at around $10,000, down nearly 5 percent. Is this particular volatility swing due to Mark’s grudge? If it is, and if Facebook continues to wield its enormous economic power to crush its enemies, we could all heading down a dark road indeed.