Facebook’s meteoric rise as the social media platform of choice in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s paved the way for the integration of social media into modern life. Suddenly the online world wasn’t just for you and your friends but your parents and grandparents too. For many, Facebook was the perfect vessel to share your life with the world and connect with others. Despite the slow exodus of younger generations from the platform, it is still going strong with over 2 billion active users recorded in 2018. 

Whilst many view Facebook as the place to catch up with old friends or read an overly long rant from that weird aunt, its role in society has become so much more. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook was revealed to be not just a social media platform, but a tool to influence public opinion. Targeted advertising and “fake news” posts allegedly swaying voters in both the UK’s EU Referendum and the US Presidential race. 

Political parties have recognised the importance of Facebook. A combined $70 million was spent on Facebook advertising by the Trump and Clinton election campaigns. Facebook themselves sent dedicated staff to advise.  

On the other side of the geopolitical sphere, the importance of social media as an influential tool has also been recognised by terrorist groups including ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Every day, extremist propaganda is uploaded to Facebook with the aim to spread fear and discourse or to recruit for the cause. The pressure is piling on Facebook to handle this problem. The European Commission is threatening heavy fines for radical content that is not removed within an hour on the platform. Despite their best efforts, the propaganda keeps on coming. 

Facebook is leveraged as a global platform, without borders. In politics, propaganda, marketing, business and advertising, just to name a few. So why not due diligence?  

Previous blogs have elaborated on the pivotal role that social media can play in the understanding of a potential employee. Revealing the motivations and behaviours that tick box exercises cannot. The information that Facebook presents us with provides the perfect opportunity for enhanced due diligence. The rest of the world has caught on to the uses of social media, it’s time that due diligence did too.

 

– Alex Penn, Open Source Intelligence Analyst