Brian Acton and fellow co-founder Jan Koum sold the messaging service WhatsApp to Facebook in 2014 for $22 billion. Acton received about $3 billion in the deal, and has a net worth of about $5.5 billion.
After staying on for three years, Acton quit Facebook in September, and is now a major backer of rival messaging service Signal, which boasts encryption to make its messages resistent to government surveillance. In February, he joined the newly launched nonprofit Signal Foundation as executive chairman, and invested $50 million into the app.
After reports of Cambridge Analytica using Facebook’s user information came to light, people across social media have begun to urge others to either #DeleteFacebook or #BoycottFacebook in response.
One surprising voice has joined this movement – WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton.
This was a typical message found on Twitter in the wake of accusations over Cambridge Analytica using personal data from 50 million Facebook users to influence the US presidential election in 2016.
The #DeleteFacebook hashtag appeared to gain traction after one Twitter user quoted a BBC Stories tweet from 2017 – an interview with Theresa Wong about Cambridge Analytica, originally broadcast on BBC Two in the series Secrets of Silicon Valley.
Four quotes were taken from the interview to infer Facebook’s role in Donald Trump’s 2016 US election victory, such as “Facebook was our hands-on partner,” and “Without Facebook we wouldn’t have won,” coupled with the call to #DeleteFacebook in response.
But the irony of using one social media account to decry another was not lost on some people.
One comment on a Reddit thread about the #DeleteFacebook movement joked “the rally cry to delete from Facebook is now trending as a hashtag on Twitter – another social media site that gathers data on users”.
A spokeswoman for Privacy International warned that privacy concerns extend beyond Facebook as “your data is being exploited all the time”.
A person on the technology subsection of Reddit agreed, saying removing Facebook “doesn’t solve the long term problem [because] consent to data use is very weakly protected online right now”.
And one Twitter user seeking regulation of Facebook said having the ability to delete an account is “a privilege”.