“I often hear this analogy being made saying that big global companies, in this case, Facebook, have more power over people’s lives than governments do. I actually think that is nonsense,” said Nick Clegg, the former UK deputy prime minister and now Facebook Vice-President of global affairs and communications in an Express Adda on Friday.
He said the influence that governments have over the everyday lives of people is much more granular than any global company, in this case, Facebook. “The influence of Facebook is wildly overstated,” he added while in conversation with Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express, and Shubhajit Roy, Associate Editor.
Facebook is among the largest social media platforms with over a billion users worldwide. But lately, Facebook is facing the heat for privacy-related issues such as the alleged meddling by Russian operatives in Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, known as Brexit and that Facebook data of 50 million users were used by British firm Cambridge Analytica to manipulate the outcome of the 2016 US elections.
But Clegg denied that there was any interference from Russia during the Brexit referendum. He pointed out that Facebook, on two occasions, in its investigations found no evidence of any material significance of Russian interference through advertising in the Brexit referendum. “All of these assertions were made completely blissfully ignorant of the facts,” he said.
Clegg also talked about Facebook’s business model in context of WhatsApp, which is a free messaging service. “WhatsApp does not make money. It is a remarkable thing that we have an app which is used by 1.4 billion people around the world does not make money.” However, he did point out the introduction of advertisements in WhatsApp Status as a future revenue source but admitted that the company hasn’t gotten there yet.
“One of the interesting things about Facebook’s business model is it earns from advertising and that allows it to make these products available for use for free. It is a very accessible business model. It is like recycling advertising revenue, which generally comes from America, Chinese exporters, Europe,” Clegg explained. He added that Facebook could switch to a subscription model but it will lose this quality, which is that it is universally available.