Innovation interrupted: Facebook lawsuit diverts attention from F8 2019

F8, Facebook’s annual developer’s conference, wrapped up Wednesday afternoon. But news from a Delaware courtroom captured part of the attention usually garnered by discussions surrounding innovation. 

“It’s true that we, and I have learned a lot of hard lessons over the last few years,” said Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, during the morning’s keynote address.

In a Delaware courtroom, Facebook investor Robert Feuer filed suit against the company. His 193-page complaint alleges Mark Zuckerberg committed insider trading for selling stock ahead of 2018’s data breach controversy and that Facebook’s board took actions that ultimately undermined the value of the stock, and the company itself.

“They have some exposure because one of the things we’re looking for from our executives in leadership in companies is transparency and sort of making timely disclosure on things that could affect the company’s future. Certainly investors have a right to expect that,” said Ann Skeep, the senior director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

Wednesday’s suit follows multiple perceived and real missteps by the social media networking giant. As recently as 2014, Facebook has faced fire for a mood manipulation experiment on half a million unsuspecting users. User information that was plucked by apps, and then shared without the consent of those impacted. In addition to last year’s massive data theft that led to greater congressional oversight and the looming prospect of a five-billion dollar fine..

“Everybody that has a stake in Facebook needs to be concerned whenever they make a misstep. Whether they’re a stockholder or user or regulator. Facebook isn’t entitled to stay on-top forever. If they continue to have missteps, they could face the same fate as MySpace did,” said Larry Magid, a tech analyst and the CEO of ConnectSafely

Facebook executives and presenters didn’t address the new lawsuit during the keynote discussion at the F8. An emailed statement from an anonymous spokesperson says, “This lawsuit is without merit.” Rank and file at the F8 didn’t seem concerned.

“I care more about the privacy, and the other parts that they’re working on. Rather than stocks and selling, and shareholders themselves,” said Lonut Ciobotaru, a Facebook advertiser attending from Romania.

Facebook continues to push ahead with changes it says will provide greater privacy and security for its users, business partners, and the public at-large.