Facebook throws annual holiday party for employees after rough year

Scandal-plagued Facebook caps of terrible year with a multimillion-dollar two-day winter village-themed celebration complete with a ‘thumbs up tavern’ and a polar bear ice sculpture

  • Facebook threw a two-night holiday bash for its employees in San Francisco last weekend
  • Menlo Park, California-based company rented out the Palace of Fine Arts, where a single night’s rental has been known to cost a whopping $300,000
  • By some estimates, the tech giant that has 12,000 working in the Bay Area likely spent between $1.2million-$1.8million on food and drink alone, at the current going rate of $100-$150 per person 
  • There was a polar bear ice sculpture, free alcohol, and all the candy and donuts they could eat 
  • Sheryl Sandberg was seen alongside with recent big hire, former British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
  • Firm has been mired in scandal and negative headlines this year over sharing of data and spread of ‘fake news’
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In the midst of a raging firestorm of bad press about multiple data breaches and fake news that possibly influenced the 2016 presidential election, Facebook workers were treated to an extravagant multi-million-dollar Christmas party, complete with ruddy-cheeked drummer boys, a chainsaw-carved ice sculpture of a polar bear wearing sunglasses and unlimited glazed donuts.

The Menlo Park-based social network threw a two-day celebration last weekend at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco – a century-old domed theater where a single night’s rental has been known to cost a whopping $300,000.  

The theme of the event was a winter village, and among the attractions were a ‘thumbs up tavern,’ where employees could get drinks.

The social media giant spared no expense, hiring Christmas dancers, models playing the Elf on a Shelf and an ice sculptor.

There was even a ski gondola hanging from the ceiling, a sweets shop offering a wide variety of desserts and candy and a photo booth.  

The party was held over two nights due to the massive number of attendees.

The company wanted to gives its 12,000 workers employed at its Menlo Park headquarters an opportunity to blow off some steam. 

Even with the two separate parties, the lines were reportedly long for food and drink.  

The Facebook holiday party this weekend at the Palace of Fine Arts featured a ski-lift gondola (above)

There was also a ‘thumbs up tavern’ where employees could grab some free drinks at the holiday party

While Facebook has not disclosed how much money it spent on the over-the-top holiday celebration, by most conservative estimates the tech giant likely shelled out anywhere between $1.2million-$1.8million on catering alone, at the current going rate of $100-$150 per person. 

That number does not factor any of the entertainment, custom lighting or decor.

Some users on social media called out Facebook for being out of touch by organizing the luxury party while being mired in multiple high-profile scandals. 

‘Paid for thanks to the unauthorized psychological experimentation they committed on you, your kids, your family, and all of yourt friends. Sickos,’ one Twitter user wrote.

Another chimed in: ‘Facebook are traitor.’ 

In recent years, it has become de rigueur for deep-pocketed Silicon Valley companies to organize lavish soirees for their staff during the holiday season. 

In 2014, Facebook rented out AT&T Park, and the following year the company threw a wild roaring ’20s-style Christmas party, complete with dancing flappers, gilded palm trees and acrobats. 

That same year, then-Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer also organized a Great Gatsby-themed holiday party, which was widely reported to set the struggling company back $7million.

Mayer, who left Yahoo in 2017, later disputed that number, insisting that the company spent closer to $2million on the festivities.  

At Facebook’s holiday shindig this year, COO Sheryl Sandberg posed up with Nick Clegg, former British deputy prime minister who was hired in October to lead the social media company’s global affairs and communications team.  

Sheryl Sandberg (center), Facebook’s COO, is seen above at the annual company Christmas party alongside her latest hire, Nick Clegg (second from right). Marne Levine (far left), the COO of Instagram, is also seen above

Also standing alongside Sandberg was Marne Levine, the Chief Operating Officer of Instagram.

Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, bought the photo-sharing social network in 2012 for a billion dollars in cash and stock.

Levine wrote on her Instagram page: ‘Big night out on the town last night with some of my beloved colleagues for the Facebook holiday party. 

‘Nothing like toy soldier snare drummers to get you in the holiday spirit.’  

If any of the employees were looking to mingle with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, they were most likely disappointed.

Sandberg (center), who has been the subject of criticism this year, appears relaxed alongside Facebook employee Kelsey Anderson (left), and an unidentified woman

The Lean In author has come under fire for the company’s mishaps, including its failure to protect user data and its relationship with a Republican-linked opposition research firm

Facebook even hired people to dress up in Christmas clothing, like the person above who is seen sitting atop a shipping container and looks like an Elf on a Shelf

One of the highlights was an ice sculpture of a polar bear (as seen above). The Facebook logo is seen carved out of a block of ice on the lower right

Facebook employees are seen above gathering around the ice sculpture polar bear, which is even wearing sunglasses

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There was a special VIP section that was cordoned off for the top executives, though it is unclear if Zuckerberg was there. 

Sandberg posed at the party with Clegg, 51, who succeeds Elliot Schrage. Schrage left the company following reports indicating that it dug up opposition research against liberal billionaire George Soros. 

Since joining Facebook, Clegg has reported to Sandberg. He will move to California with his family in the new year.  

Zuckerberg, Sandberg, and their company have been in the news in recent months, though the headlines were largely negative.

A row of drummer boys put on a show for the Facebook employees and their guests at the holiday party

The two-day bash for the company’s tens of thousands of employees in the Bay Area came after a difficult year for Facebook. The image above shows ‘snow’ falling

Those who attended the party revealed there were toy soldiers, a main street with snow, candy shops, a lodge, and a live Elf on the Shelf

Partygoers said the lines were long for food and drinks – even though the event was held over the course of two days to accommodate tens of thousands of employees

The Palace of Fine Arts is a historic landmark located in the Marina District of San Francisco

The above image offers a better view of the gondola as Facebook employees mingle underneath it at the party

This elf appears to be having a good time sitting on a shipping container as Facebook employees line up at the bar below

Facebook employees are seen above walking along the main street of the ‘winter village’ built inside the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

Snowflakes fall from the ceiling during the Facebook holiday party. The low temperature in San Francisco last weekend was in the mid-40s – not cold enough for real snow

Facebook employees are seen above mingling in the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco last weekend

Facebook’s top two executives – founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (center) and COO Sheryl Sandberg (center left) – are seen in the above image. Sandberg was seen at the party, though Zuckerberg was not

Facebook came under fire for its role in allowing the spread of ‘fake news’ – allegedly masterminded by Russia – that is thought to have had an impact on the 2016 elections.

The company has also been accused of allowing disinformation to be spread on its platform which allegedly facilitated the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

In March, it was learned that a British-based political consultancy firm, Cambridge Analytica, which had ties to the Trump campaign, misused data of tens of millions of Facebook users.

In September, Facebook acknowledged that a data breach affected 50 million users.

Two weeks later, the company said that data belonging to 29 million other users had been stolen.

This partygoer cozies up to a Teddy Bear during Facebook’s annual holiday bash in San Francisco, California last weekend

The winter village looked very realistic with men dressed up in toy soldier costumes (as seen in the photo above)

This partygoer gazes out from the balcony as Facebook employees mingle below on the main drag of the winter village

‘Shoutout to Mark for throwin’ a rager,’ wrote one Instagram user who attached this photo to her timeline

A man dressed as the Nutcracker drummer plays his instrument at the holiday extravaganza

These partygoers are seen posing in front of the Rotunda at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

On Friday, Facebook said it discovered a bug that may have affected up to 6.8 million people who used Facebook login to grant permission to third-party apps to access photos.

The incident may have affected up to 1,500 apps built by 876 developers, the company said, adding that it has fixed the issue.

Facebook said some third-party apps may have gained access to broader set of photos than usual for 12 days between September 13 and 25. 

As if those scandals weren’t bad enough, last month Facebook admitted that it hired a Republican-linked public relations firm to do opposition research on company critics like George Soros and others. 

What is the Cambridge Analytica scandal?

Consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica had offices in London, New York, Washington, as well as Brazil and Malaysia.

The company boasts it can ‘find your voters and move them to action’ through data-driven campaigns and a team that includes data scientists and behavioural psychologists. 

In 2013, Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan used his app, This Is Your Digital Life, to ask 270,000 Facebook users questions about their personalities.

By answering them, the users granted Kogan access to not only their profiles but to those of their friends.

He subsequently sold that information to Cambridge Analytica for $51million.

Facebook changed its rules in 2014 to limit what data such apps could access.

A year later, the company learned that Kogan had sold his findings and contacted both him and Cambridge Analytica to tell them to delete the data which they promised to do.

In March, Facebook made its announcement that it had suspended Cambridge Analytica after being warned of looming media reports that claimed not all of the information had been destroyed.

Those reports, which were informed by the accounts of whistleblowers who worked at the firm, also revealed the true scale of the breach.  

It was initially estimated that the firm was able to mine the information of 55 million Facebook users even though just 270,000 people gave them permission to do so.

But Facebook later since revealed the number was actually as high as 87 million. 

The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.

The same information is said to have been used to help the Brexit campaign in the UK.  

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    Zuckerberg, who wasn’t seen at the party, may have had a good reason not to be in the mood to celebrate.

    The founder of Facebook lost almost a quarter of his net worth after a very bad year for the social media giant. 

    Zuckerberg, the 34-year-old multi-billionaire, has seen his net worth drop $15billion, according to Money Magazine.

    Money Magazine drew up a timeline of debacles and stumbles over the course of the year that plunged the billionaire multiple notches down on the list of the wealthiest people on the planet.

    Beginning in March, Christopher Wylie, the co-founder of the data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, revealed that it misappropriated 50 million of Facebook users’ data (revised up to 87 million later) and then used that information to target voters in the 2016 election on behalf of the Trump campaign.

    The Facebook founder temporarily lost  $13billion on the news which forced him to concede that his company may have made a mistake in not proactively doing something about the breach.

    Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, testifying before Congress about the Cambridge Analytica use of user data in the 2016 election

    ‘When we heard back from Cambridge Analytica that they had told us that they weren’t using the data and deleted it, we considered it a closed case,’ Zuckerberg told Congress when placed on the hot seat. 

    ‘In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake.’ 

    Due to lackluster sales and poorer prospects for growth, investors soured on the platform. Zuckerberg also admitted that spending on security in light of the previous scandal would affect profits. 

    Then came the worst single-day loss in share value in the history of U.S. stocks. Facebook provided its Q2 earnings after trading hours on July 25 while at an all-time high price of $217.50. 

    On July 26, the shares opened 20 per cent lower. Zuckerberg lost $15.9billion by the end of the day, and another $2.2billion in following days.

    With an accelerating fall underway, Money points to an exodus of executive talent from acquired businesses WhatsApp and Instagram painting an unhealthy picture of the internal politics of the company with WhatsApp co-founder tweeting ‘It is time. #deletefacebook’ as he departed.

    In November, before things could settle down, the New York Times dropped a bombshell about Sandberg, the ‘Lean In’ author, and her role in a variety of the company’s scandals: ignoring Russian hacking, playing down Cambridge Analytica’s data misuse and even lying about hiring the data company to target Soros.

    Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune dropped from $85.5billion at the end of 2017 to $52.4 billion by the end of 2018

    Facebook went from a high this year of $217.50 per share down to a trading price of $144.06 amid the scandals and problems at the social media giant

    The platform even received criticism earlier this year from United Nations human rights experts weighing in on its culpability for the spread of hate speech leading to the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar.

    Zuckerberg’s embattled financial empire now stands at $57billion, down from $75 billion at the beginning of the year, the biggest loss among 500 billionaires, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

    He still stands at number six on the Index’s list of billionaires. 

    German car parts industrialist Georg Schaeffler finds himself in second place with a loss of $13.8 billion for the year.       

    What are the accusations against Facebook?

    Facebook is facing allegations from all over the world that it has been used to spread ‘fake news’, interfere with elections, and peddle hate.

    It is also facing hugely damaging revelations of privacy data breaches among its accounts.

    Here are some of the controversies it has been embroiled in: 

    ‘Fake news’ and Russia 

    Facebook has come under the spotlight amid claims that Russian accounts used the platform to spread ‘fake news’ during the 2016  Brexit referendum.

    In America, Russians accounts have been accused of using Facebook to harm Hilary Clinton’s prospects of being elected over Donald Trump. 

    In the UK, some have claimed that misleading information was used to promote Brexit in the run up to the 2016 referendum. 

    Cambridge Analytica Scandal:

    The data of around 87 million Facebook users was harvested by the company Cambridge Analytica (CA).

    It has been claimed CA used the information to assess peoples’ personalities and come up with political strategies to sway voters to back Brexit and Donald Trump.

    Spread of extremism and hate

    Facebook has been repeatedly criticised for not being quick enough to take extremist content down from its site.

    Critics have warned that Facebook has become a safe haven for extremists who peddle hate and try to recruit jihadis to kill and maim.

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