By CNN and The Conversation
The verdict from Wall Street is in — and investors clearly think Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was the winner after ten hours of testimony in Congress this week.
Although shares of Facebook dipped Thursday morning, they are still up nearly 3% since Zuckerberg entered Capitol Hill to face questions from the Senate Tuesday.
The stock was already rallying earlier in the week as investors digested the previously released prepared remarks from Zuckerberg.
All told, Facebook’s stock has gained about 4.5% since the start of trading from Tuesday.
So Zuckerberg, who owns more than 401.4 million shares in Facebook, got nearly $3 billion richer in the past few days. His stake in the company is now worth around $66 billion.
That makes up nearly all of Zuckerberg’s total net worth — good enough to make him the seventh richest person in the world, according to real-time data tracked by Forbes.
Of course, anybody else who owns Facebook shares have benefited as well.
The company’s total market value has increased by nearly $23 billion since Tuesday.
Facebook’s total market value has increased by nearly $23 billion this week alone
The stock is still down about 7% this year though, making Facebook the worst perfomer among big tech stocks.
Shares are down 16% from the all-time high that they hit before the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, which Facebook now says has affected 87 million users, first came to light. The worst may be over though.
The general sense from Wall Street analysts is that Facebook might face some calls for more regulation but few seem to think that Facebook and other social media companies will wind up getting hit with crippling new rules that could hurt profits.
Analysts are also betting that there won’t be much in the way of a user or advertiser fallout for Facebook either.
Facebook recently announced dramatic data access restrictions on its app and website.
The company framed the lockdown as an attempt to protect user information, in response to the public outcry following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
But the decision is in line with growing restrictions imposed on researchers studying Facebook and its photo-sharing app Instagram, which also began immediately restricting access to its data on April 4.
In fact, several limitations were put in place in February this year, before the Cambridge Analytica fiasco – in which data was allegedly harvested from 50m Facebook profiles – erupted publicly. Facebook’s API, version 2.5, was scheduled to be retired this month, by – among other things – preventing access to the ID of users participating in public forums.
Social networks offer two main entry points for the collection of data: they work as interfaces for users and software interfaces designed for consumption by computer programs, known as Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
While APIs are intended for programmers building apps that add to the growing ecosystem of services offered by social networks, researchers have also leveraged these interfaces to study social behaviour online.
The mammoth size of Facebook’s userbase
(2.13 billion at the last count)
Given the mammoth size of Facebook’s userbase (2.13 billion at the last count), external scrutiny of the content on the social network is extremely important. In recent years, however, researchers have been fighting an uphill battle with the company to provide access to data. Now its latest decision has made it virtually impossible to carry out large-scale research on Facebook.
The changes make defunct software and libraries dedicated to academic research on Facebook, including netvizz, NodeXL, SocialMediaLab, fb_scrape_public and Rfacebook, all of which relied on Facebook’s APIs to collect data.
Systematic research on Facebook content is now untenable, turning what was already a worryingly opaque, siloed social network into a black box that is arguably even less accountable to lawmakers and the public – both of whom benefited from academics who monitored developments on the site.
Deen Freelon, the developer of fb_scrape_public which analyses large, publicly available datasets on Facebook, told us via email that “the decision to restrict access to the Pages API could severely impair content-based Facebook research going forward, depending on how willing Facebook is to approve access. If it doesn’t approve access for most research purposes, that could create incentives for researchers to scrape Facebook directly, which violates its terms of service.” Data scraping or harvesting is a method by which a computer program extracts information from web pages.
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