Mr. Norman said Facebook should establish an ombudsman role to assess its societal risks, with reports in its regular financial filings. He compared the work to an accounting firm’s audit of a corporation’s finances.
“The business should be obliged to report its risk to society versus just financial risks to the business,” Mr. Norman said.
“We’ve made mistakes, but to suggest that we aren’t focused on uncovering and tackling issues quickly is not true,” Carolyn Everson, the vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, said in an emailed statement. “Our clients depend on us to help drive their business, and whether that means supporting the largest brands in the world or budding entrepreneurs, we’ll stay focused on doing the best work for our partners, improving safety and security across our platforms, and driving social good in the world.”
Almost all of Facebook’s revenue — which climbed to just over $40 billion last year — comes from advertisers, which range from local businesses to global brands. Along with Google, Facebook dominates the digital advertising market, and even as user growth has slowed, its revenue has risen quarter after quarter. But marketing is built on trust between sellers and buyers, and the revelations this week are a jolt for some in the industry.
“Up to now, whatever you said about Facebook, you couldn’t say it was a two-faced company,” Mr. Tobaccowala said. “It says one thing to you and does something completely different. This is very hard if you are a marketer.”
He added: “I’m not anti-Facebook. But I have always believed that marketers need people who recognize their dollars, and that they should drive and control their brands and they should control their data, and I think this will probably give them additional gumption to stand up and be heard.”
R/GA, a digital agency that won an advertising award from Facebook last year, posted a link to the Times article on Twitter and added, “It’s time to admit we were all wrong about Facebook. It’s actually worse.” The agency declined to comment further.