Every December, Yahoo Finance selects a Company of the Year, based on its market performance and its achievements that particular year. In 2021, Microsoft (MSFT) took home the crown, smashing through the $2 trillion market capitalization mark and seeing a 53% surge in its stock price as of Dec. 16, year-to-date.
However, the spirit of Festivus has taught us we can learn just as much from the bad as the good by airing our grievances. That’s why Yahoo Finance also selects a Worst Company of the Year, polling our audience as to which company upset them the most.
Our survey’s 1,541 respondents were mad about a lot this year, from the Robinhood (HOOD) trading freezes last winter to electric truck startup Nikola still not having its act together. But one company irked them the most — Facebook (FB). The survey’s results shed more light on why the company decided to rebrand this year to a new name: Meta Platforms.
The open-ended survey was posted on Yahoo Finance on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5, and dozens of names were submitted. Facebook received 8% of the write-in vote.
Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. It’s been under the antitrust microscope and faced a flurry of allegations from a whistleblower claiming Facebook ignored safety issues for the sake of growth. Congress is constantly demanding answers from the company on both fronts. At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices. Other critics, including those on the left side of the aisle, claim Facebook allows the spread of misinformation.
What is especially interesting about the Company Formerly Known as Facebook is just how many and varied the reasons people dislike it. It received 50% more votes than the second-place finisher, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, not for one singular offense but for a litany of grievances from groups of people that may have little else to agree about.
There were significant complaints of censorship, mainly of the right and conservative voices that felt that the “free-speech police” was being unfair and they were owed the right to say whatever they wanted to on the platform.
On the other side, people hectored the platform for failing to police significant misinformation that in the view of critics contributed to people not taking the pandemic’s potential for death seriously (797,877 official deaths in the U.S. and counting). Facebook was also blamed for the rise of far-right extremism and “undermining democracy worldwide,” as one respondent put it.
Outside of the political conversation, many respondents were upset with the company’s effects on children and young people, citing its photo-sharing site Instagram and its effects on mental health, after internal documents revealed the company knew Instagram made teenage girls feel worse about body image issues but didn’t address the problem.
Facebook/Meta Platforms did not respond to a request for comment.
Can the company redeem itself?
Around 30% of Yahoo Finance readers who responded to the survey said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself.
One respondent said Facebook could redeem itself by acknowledging and apologizing for what it did and donating a "sizable amount" of its profits for a foundation to help reverse its harm. While some people saw the Meta rebrand as a cynical attempt to change the conversation, following Don Draper's advice in scandal, others were excited by the potential of a new direction that could a) be interesting and b) something different from the aging social media model.
A significant amount of responses focused on executives and founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg has certainly never been Mr. Popular, which Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher decided was the reason he created “The Facebook,” in the movie “The Social Network.” But he has long been seen as a visionary with an uncanny knack at predicting (or manifesting) the future, making it unlikely he departs from the company he founded, shaped, and pivoted.
One way it could redeem itself, for the angry investors in the survey, would be to grow its stock price, apparently. The stock is up 22% year-to-date — strong, but lagging the S&P 500— but down around 13% from its September high.
Zuckerberg and co. have their challenges cut out for them in 2022. Fortunately for them, they’re already reinventing the company.
The (dis)honorable mentions
The annual airing of grievances saw a few companies get special mention from Yahoo Finance readers.
Alibaba's (BABA) almost 50% drop year-to-date earned it the number two spot. Investors are upset at having lost money.
AT&T’s (T) loss of 24% year-to-date as the S&P 500 saw a 24% increase. Like Alibaba, this is a story of share price dissatisfaction.
Tesla (TSLA) stock has soared, but people are furious with the company rolling out products before they are ready, sexual harrassment scandals, and the general cult of personality surrounding 2021’s Time Person of the Year.
Market-maker Citadel Securities and retail trading platform Robinhood (HOOD) had their time in the doghouse during the Gamestock hubbub almost a year ago, and many have not forgotten — and continue to see these players as icing out ordinary retail investors they purport to help.
This was an open-ended survey performed on Survey Monkey via the Yahoo Finance home page from Dec. 4 to Dec,. 5. 1,541 people responded.