In a nutshell: Meta, which most people still know as Facebook, has capped off one of its most controversy-riddled years by being crowned the worst company of 2021, as voted for by the participants of a recent survey.
Yahoo Finance has a December tradition in which it announces the Company of the Year—Microsoft took the honors in 2021—but this year sees a less-welcome award: the worst firm of the last 12 months.
The publication writes that 1,541 people responded to the open-ended survey between December 4 and 5. Dozens of names were put forward, but there was a very clear winner: Facebook, or Meta, to be accurate, taking 8% of the vote. It was a decisive win for Mark Zuckerberg's firm; Facebook/Meta took 50% more votes than second-place Alibaba.
The result isn’t totally surprising. 2021 has been Facebook’s worst year since being embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018. There was the ongoing WhatsApp data-sharing controversy, users’ phone numbers being sold on Telegram, it allegedly overestimating audience figures, more antitrust lawsuits, fighting with Apple over Cupertino’s App Tracking Transparency policy, the massive outage, and the Instagram for Kids project.
But the biggest PR hits came in September when company documents appeared to show Facebook understood just how harmful Instagram could be to teenage girls. There was also whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony that Facebook prioritizes profit over its impact on society.
In the middle of the whistleblower news cycle, Facebook announced that it would be changing its corporate name to Meta, a move it likely hoped would distract the public. The company has also been promoting its metaverse concept, something few people seem to care about.
Following Facebook on the worst-companies list is Alibaba, AT&T, and Nikola, with most complaints aimed at those firms’ share prices in 2021. Tesla took fifth spot due to anger over it rolling out unready products, sexual harassment /race discrimination allegations, and Elon Musk living up to his self-proclaimed Edgelord persona. Still, it never stopped him from winning Time’s person of the year.