Facebook came out fighting in 2019.
The social network spent most of the year taking on all comers from all sides. Regulators hit Facebook with the biggest fine in history. Conservative firebrands pressured the social network whenever it tried to curb extremist rhetoric from the right. And perhaps the biggest challenge came from the left, with surging presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren demanding the breakup of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
But Facebook had vowed not to go down quietly, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his staff near the end of the year in October. "If someone's going to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight," Zuckerberg was heard saying in a surreptitious recording of a company meeting.
It seems the battle may have been worth it: The social network ended the year strong with advertisers and a stock price hovering above $200 by Christmas, up from 2018, when it was below $140.
Here is an (exhaustive) look back on Facebook's year:
Zuckerberg issues his 2019 New Year resolution, an annual tradition in which the CEO outlines priorities for this year. Zuckerberg commits to sit down with a variety of leaders and experts to discuss hard topics. "I’m going to put myself out there more than I’ve been comfortable with," Zuckerberg says.
He is later criticized, however, for not speaking with a more diverse group of leaders. In the six conversations he held, on subjects liked the circulation of fake news, the rise of artificial intelligence and the challenges of privacy, Zuckerberg spoke with eight white men and one woman.
The "Facebook Research" app gets blocked by Apple after it used a back door to get downloaded onto iPhones. Via the app, the social network was paying teens to share data about their mobile habits. Google was later found running a similar program. The episode shined a light on how the major tech companies conduct field research using people, including teenagers, as digital guinea pigs to observe all their online activity, for about $20.
In 2018, Apple shut down Onavo, an app run by Facebook that helped the company detect trends online.
Facebook delivers a special feature for Messenger users to delete sent messages. This allows people to retract wayward texts or images they no longer want in circulation. Facebook developed the new capability after it was discovered in 2018 that Zuckerberg had a custom version of Messenger that let him delete sent messages. In the coming weeks, the company delivers a comprehensive plan to build a more private social network.
A German regulator orders Facebook to stop combining the data from users on its main app with Instagram and WhatsApp. It's a foreshadowing that later in the year U.S. regulators will examine the way Facebook integrates the companies it acquires, how it processes people's data, and its market power.
The Washington Post reports that Facebook is negotiating a record-breaking multibillion-dollar deal with the Federal Trade Commission over Cambridge Analytica, the third-party data firm that tricked up to 87 million Facebook users into sharing their personal information.
Facebook shuts down Onavo from Google's Play app store, ending the program entirely. The shutdown comes after U.K. lawmakers investigate what is now being called a "spy" program. The investigation shows how Facebook used the research app to gain an edge on rivals like Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest by monitoring how everyday users engage with the apps.
A report in The Verge documents the trauma of being a content moderator on Facebook, forced to sift through hours of horrific video and images to police the social network. The report is one of many this year detailing Facebook’s ongoing issue of working with outside contractors to handle some of the most sensitive work on the platform.
Zuckerberg issues a seminal blog post that outlines his privacy-centric plan for the company. It includes encrypted messaging, ephemeral videos that disappear after a set time, and “interoperability” between Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. Interoperability is a subject that will later arouse lawmakers and regulators concern about Facebook’s market dominance.
Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren calls for the breakup of Facebook, Google and Amazon. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else,” Warren writes in an essay online.