Facebook is by far the biggest social network in the world, so it’s understandable that it won’t get everything right. However, when a company that possesses so much of its customers’ personal information commits an error, the personal consequences can be dire. That’s what happened this week when the social media giant accidentally labeled 65,000 Russian users as being “interested” in treason.
This is a big deal for one simple reason: it could have put these users in grave danger from the Russian government itself. The country is ruled by a repressive regime that has used Facebook as a tool for intelligence in the past. The government easily could have used Facebook’s mistake as justification to investigate or arrest innocent people.
“Officially, the internet is not censored in Russia,” Mette Skak, an academic and expert on Russian affairs, told The Guardian. “However, these methods, which Facebook has probably unwittingly given the Russian authorities, make it much easier for governmental agencies to systematically track persons marked as potential traitors.”
While there’s no evidence that anything bad happened in this instance, it’s just another example of the insane amount of power Facebook can wield over its users. The fact that a company can make one mistake and put people’s lives at risk is disturbing, to say the least.