Published on May 1, 2020
Consumers share widespread optimism that technology is changing life and society for the better, as we found in the extensive survey at the heart of The Purpose Report 2020. Respondents agreed that tech companies, especially social media companies, need to work together to ensure data privacy (84%) and to protect the integrity of public discourse by controlling fake news, fake accounts and factual inaccuracies (81%) on their platforms.
Facebook has faced intense political scrutiny over the past couple years, as government officials have investigated the platform’s use as a tool for spreading disinformation during the 2016 presidential election, as well as broader privacy and security concerns about the company’s compiliation and potential misuse of user data.
Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been highly visible as a private sector leader fighting COVID-19, and has been pivotal to Facebook’s messaging strategy. Since the outset of the crisis, Zuckerberg has used Facebook Live to talk with major players in the COVID-19 response, which has served to both relay useful information and associate Facebook with the response effort:
On April 20, Zuckerberg published an op-ed in the Washington Post about the power of data to defeat COVID-19, and the key role Facebook is playing as a social network, reinforcing its purpose brand: “Better data can help governments determine where to send resources such as ventilators and personal protective equipment — and eventually which areas are safe to start opening up again. …But with a community of billions of people globally, Facebook can uniquely help researchers and health authorities get the information they need to respond to the outbreak and start planning for the recovery.”
COO Sheryl Sandberg has also been active in shaping Facebook’s public COVID-19 response. While Zuckerberg has focused more on Facebook’s capabilities as a tool for combating the spread of the virus, Sandberg has aimed her messaging toward supporting small businesses impacted by the lockdown.
On April 2, Sandberg announced the company’s $100 million small business loan program: “The COVID-19 pandemic has hit small businesses everywhere. Suddenly and, through no fault of their own, many simply can’t do business, and for others it has become much, much harder because customers are doing the right thing and staying at home. Facebook is committed to helping them. That’s why we recently announced our $100 million global small business grant program and why we are providing more details today about how businesses can apply.”
Facebook’s COVID-19 response has included a number of modifications to its service, especially regarding pop-ups and informational content. The company has incorporated educational pop-ups on top of search results to connect Facebook users with local, national and international health organizations.
COVID-focused modifications have also been applied to Instagram:
Facebook has partnered with a number of health organizations to develop integrated apps and products to support dissemination of accurate, reliable and up-to-date information:
Facebook has also been highly active modifying its offerings to include greater resources and tools for small businesses:
With COVID-19 disrupting economic and social activity, Facebook has published an updated guide for advertisers, focusing on performance impact and adaptation of content marketing and advertising amid the pandemic: “As businesses seek to navigate this difficult time, adapt media strategies and determine which marketing activities are most worthwhile, gaining an accurate understanding of ad performance is more important than ever. However, a key issue marketers and strategists face when making these adjustments is that many current behaviors depart from the norm.”
Facebook has also released its own content marketing and messaging in response to COVID-19. On April 1, the company released a video spot, “We’re Never Lost If We Can Find Each Other,” featuring an uplifting voiceover overlaying images portraying both ordinary life and COVID-19 first responders in action. The ability to keep people connected is fundamental to Facebook’s business purpose.
Facebook has leveraged its position as the world’s dominant social network to produce a report and interactive maps (updated daily) using aggregate data from Carnegie Mellon’s U.S. symptoms survey. This is in keeping with Facebook’s corporate purpose, and reflects Zuckerberg’s and Sandberg’s ongoing public leadership with regard to finding data-driven solutions to the pandemic.
Facebook has also pledged a lot of money to the cause, and has announced a range of financial donations and grants in support of communities and businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19:
Facebook has also committed to helping through online communities and data sharing:
To protect its employees and maintain social distancing, Facebook has closed much of its office capacity and is facilitating work-from-home wherever possible. On March 12, Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison discussed the decision with CNN, which reported that “Facebook is extending work from home guidance to all employees globally whose jobs allow them to do so.”
After some delays, for which it was receiving increasing criticism, Facebook also temporarily sent content reviewers home, while full-time employees have been tasked with carrying some of the burden and are reviewing content related to real-world harm. This reinforces Facebook’s purpose brand as an online community, committed to ensuring that potentially harmful content is removed swiftly, even in a time of crisis, as well as the corporate culture of collaboration and teamwork.
Facebook’s core operational business function, providing stable access to its social network websites and apps, has faced pressure from spikes in user demand amidst the lockdown. The company has shared data on how it is managing data demand and load spikes, keeping customers informed through updates and blogs: “Our apps were built to withstand spikes, but the usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry. We’re monitoring usage patterns carefully, making our systems more efficient and adding capacity when needed, and we’re doing everything we can to keep our apps stable and reliable during this time.”
Facebook is also serving customers through a number of programs and policies that it hopes will improve public awareness and mitigate risks of exploitation or misinformation:
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