All around the world – in France, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – Facebook users are outraged that the social network has exposed, to all their friends, their private messages from years ago.
Facebook profile pages are now formatted in "timelines" that stretch back to when a user first joined the network. These users say that their friends are able to scroll back to the early parts of these Timelines and see what were once private messages.
One friend of mine, knowing that I'm a journalist who covers Facebook, IM'd me yesterday to say: "Why is there not more uproar about the FB private message thing?"
"They have definitely put private messages on timeline. It's really f----ed. Me and my roommate both found a ton last night from a few years ago. I don't care what they say about settings. Its not cool."
The fact is, however, this glitch does not exist.
Facebook has debunked it several times to several media outlets.
We believe Facebook. Facebook is a public company now, and a catastrophic glitch like this would be a material issue if it were real, so the company would face all sorts of lawsuits if it were lying.
What seems to be going on here is that Facebook users going through their timelines cannot believe that they, in the past, said certain things in public.
They are having a digital hangover from their wanton youth. There is research out there that shows 28 percent of teens using Facebook don't bother to make anything they put on their walls private. Just like they do not understand mortality – their brains are literally chemically imbalanced in this way – young people do not understand why it's a good idea to be private. They are solipsistic.
You might think this is good news for Facebook, that this glitch does not exist.
It is not.
It's terrible news.
If the glitch did exist, Facebook could simply write some code, stop the immediate issue, and deal with the PR mess.
But you can't fix a problem that doesn't exist.
So Facebook is dealing with a PR mess without being able to stop the activity that is causing it – because the activity that is causing it is nothing that users didn't originally happily do themselves.
Meanwhile, the outrage is real, even if the problem is not.
Perception is reality, and Facebook users perceive that Facebook is screwing them over.
Facebook has a global problem on its hands. There is no solution because there is no problem. So it's going to fester on and on.
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