U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and Attorney General Josh Kaul insist on Meta to answer concerns for poor customer service with small businesses in Wisconsin, according to a press release from Senator Baldwin.
Wisconsin small business owners are facing issues regarding regaining access to their hacked social media accounts. Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, has been called on to answer a series of questions presented by Baldwin and Kaul.
“While Meta claims to be ‘in the business of small business,’ these small businesses can face enormous obstacles to regaining access to their accounts following a hack, resulting in lost income for weeks to months at a time,” Baldwin and General Kaul said in their letter to Meta Platforms.
Currently, Meta treats these businesses as end users — holding the same automated rules for locking small businesses out of their accounts as they would for the general public, University of Wisconsin life sciences communications professor Dietram Scheufele said.
In comparison to larger corporations such as Nike or Coca-Cola, this creates a huge disadvantage for small businesses as they are treated more like consumers rather than a corporate partner, Scheufele said.
In an email statement to The Badger Herald, Baldwin said this then impacts the revenue for small businesses based in Wisconsin.
“Wisconsin’s small businesses work hard to innovate and meet customers where they are at, including using social media to attract new business, market their products, or contact customers,” Baldwin said. “For small businesses working on tight margins, being locked out of a social media page or account for weeks at a time can cause irreversible damage to their business.”
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Large social media corporations, such as Meta, have a series of responsibilities to their users such as staying honest with them, removing content that could be harmful to others, keeping their platforms secure, and securing user data privacy and personal privacy as well, UW journalism professor Katy Culver said.
This makes situations in which small businesses are being blocked from their accounts an unideal circumstance, Scheufele said.
For midsize to large corporations, building websites for their products or services is not always a challenge. But for small businesses, an internet site can be an expensive operation that they don’t have the money for. As a result, smaller corporations look to Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms to advertise themselves, Culver said.
Smaller companies that use their social media platforms to boost ratings and promote their products and services are at a disadvantage when it comes to being locked out of these accounts, as end users will begin to look elsewhere for similar products if they don’t have access to these small businesses’ accounts, according to Culver.
“If you are a small mom and pop operation, Facebook really is your path,” Culver said. “And when you get locked out or something happens where your account is compromised in some way and you can’t recover it, that can have devastating consequences.”
Social media is becoming a primary way of connecting with large numbers of consumers and for some, it is the only way for businesses to connect with consumers. What used to be an additional opportunity, is now becoming a major way for small corporations to communicate with their customers, Scheufele said.
As local papers continue to disappear and more news deserts form, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are becoming an existential form of connecting with users. This makes the push for Meta to answer on poor customer service crucial to the survival of small businesses, Scheufele said.
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Meta offers self-help tools in need of customer service, which is often not enough for businesses to fix issues such as being hacked or locked out of their accounts. Because of this, smaller corporations typically pay for further services from Meta which includes providing them with important financial information. This leaves these companies subject to financial fraud and increases harm suffered from losing account access, according to the press release.
“If Meta wants to host billions of users, then it has the responsibility to create adequate infrastructure to support these users, accounting for varying levels of education, technical knowledge, and primary language” Baldwin and Kaul said in their letter to Meta.
Challenging these big tech companies might start a conversation for them to change their customer service protocols, otherwise leading to large scandals that result in big losses of money for conglomerates like Meta, Culver said.
Meta assists over 200 million businesses in a variety of industries extending from manufacturing to arts and entertainment, according to the press release.
Inquiries of this sort, from the Democratic and Republican parties, could begin to have an effect as platforms start to realize that companies like Meta are too big and dominant to regulate all these accounts, including small businesses, Scheufele said.
“They would be wise to respond to concerns like this because if they don’t, then they [could] end up with lawsuits and or regulation and I do know that Meta is quite concerned about the laser-like focus, from both Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate, on big tech,” Culver said. “And so, anytime someone is saying there is a problem, they should be paying attention. They should be responding. Otherwise, contention amps up.”