Elon Musk, wealthy entrepreneur with companies like SpaceX and Tesla to his name, recently deleted the Facebook pages of both companies. This happened very publically after he responded to a challenge on Twitter.
A Twitter challenge
When WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton tweeted, “It is time. #deletefacebook,” Musk responded with, “What’s Facebook?” He was then challenged by a follower on Twitter to delete the SpaceX page. His response was that he was not aware it existed.
Things escalated when someone showed him a screenshot of the SpaceX page. He responded that he had never seen it before and it would be gone soon. He was accused of trolling, but the Facebook pages of both SpaceX (a spaceflight company) and Tesla (an electric car manufacturer) were deleted shortly after Musk said they would be gone.
What was deleted?
The Facebook pages of SolarCity (solar energy provider) and Hyperloop (dedicated to building cross-country high-speed transportation) were also deleted. The page for the Boring Company survived, as did the one for OpenAI, a research nonprofit co-founded by Musk. The Boring Company was established by Musk to drill tunnels underground in Los Angeles.
Both the Tesla and SpaceX Facebook pages had over 2.5 million followers. Many people follow Tesla closely on social media and marketing on those platforms has been an important part of its advertising strategy.
Facebook under pressure
Musk’s actions come at a time when Facebook has come under pressure over the extent of its influence on people. The discovery that Facebook had exposed the data of about 50 million users to Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm that worked on Trump’s campaign, has led to a backlash from those concerned about their privacy.
This incident also brought to mind another issue between Musk and Facebook. In 2016 when a SpaceX rocket exploded on a Florida launchpad, it destroyed a Facebook satellite. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg voiced his disappointment at the destruction of the satellite that would have provided connectivity for entrepreneurs across Africa. Musk did take responsibility and gave Facebook a free launch to make up for it.
No formal statements
When the Facebook pages disappeared, reporters wanted answers from the brands’ spokespeople. They have not released any formal statements. The pages came down so quickly that the social media managers of the companies are unlikely to have discussed the decision. Despite Musk’s stand against Facebook, Tesla and SpaceX are still on Instagram. Musk feels that the influence of Facebook is slowly creeping in on Instagram but appears happy to stay on the platform for now.
Even if his actions were capricious, when a high-profile person such as Elon Musk ditches Facebook, it sends a message.
For years, Facebook has grown by leaps and bounds. Whether it will continue to have the influence it does now in the future is debatable. Could new regulations change the way it operates? We will have to wait and see how events play out as Facebook tries to fix its issues and retain its many users.