Here’s a look at the social media network Meta, formerly known as Facebook.
Meta had 3.05 billion monthly active users around the world, as of September 30, 2023.
There were 66,185 full-time employees at Meta, as of September 30, 2023.
Facebook introduced words such as “friending” to the lexicon.
February 4, 2004 – Facebook is launched by Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
March 1, 2004 – Students at Stanford, Columbia and Yale universities are allowed to join.
June 1, 2004 – The company moves to Palo Alto, California.
December 1, 2004 – One million users are active on the site.
September 1, 2005 – High school students are allowed to join Facebook.
December 1, 2005 – Six million users are active on the site.
April 1, 2006 – Facebook for Mobile launches.
September 5, 2006 – The News Feed is introduced.
September 26, 2006 – Facebook expands to allow anyone to register.
March 28, 2007 – Former Harvard classmates Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss sue Zuckerberg in federal court, alleging that he stole the idea for Facebook from them. The two sides later agree to a $65 million settlement.
October 24, 2007 – Microsoft buys a 1.6% stake in Facebook for $240 million.
March 2008 – Facebook hires Sheryl Sandberg to be the company’s chief operating officer.
February 9, 2009 – Facebook introduces the “Like” button.
June 2009 – Facebook becomes the No. 1 social network in the United States, surpassing MySpace, according to PC World magazine.
October 1, 2010 – The movie “The Social Network,” a fictionalized account of the start of Facebook, is released.
September 22, 2011 – Facebook introduces the Timeline feature.
November 2011 – Facebook settles charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission that it engaged in deceptive practices concerning users’ privacy.
May 18, 2012 – The initial public offering of Facebook stock takes place.
October 4, 2012 – Facebook reaches one billion active monthly users.
June 2013 – Edward Snowden releases documents on the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program known as “PRISM.” Snowden claims that the NSA has monitored the users of Facebook and other internet companies. Zuckerberg denies Facebook cooperated with the NSA.
February 19, 2014 – Facebook announces that it is purchasing mobile messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion.
June 17, 2014 – A study by researchers at Cornell, the University of California San Francisco and Facebook is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. For one week in early 2012, according to the study, Facebook changed the content mix in the news feed of approximately 690,000 users and manipulated the content to gauge the user’s emotional response. The study found that users who were shown negative content were slightly more likely to produce negative posts. Users in the positive group responded with more upbeat posts. Many users react with anger at what they say is a dangerous social experiment.
June 23, 2015 – Stock rises 3% to reach an all-time high. The company’s market value is close to $245 billion, making it worth more than Walmart, a $235 billion company.
August 24, 2015 – Facebook hits a milestone when one billion users log in to the social network in a single day.
April 27, 2016 – Shares rise almost 9% to hit an all-time high of more than $118 after the company reports first-quarter sales jumped 52% and profits were up nearly 200% compared with the first quarter of 2015.
October 30, 2016 – A ProPublica report says Facebook’s Ethnic Affinities ad-customization option can be used to discriminate against users in housing-related ads, which is forbidden under the Fair Housing Act. In the wake of the report, the company announces that it plans to disable the ethnic affinity feature on ads for housing, employment and credit.
November 15, 2016 – Facebook and Google announce they will no longer allow fake news publishers to use their ad selling services. Facebook says material from fake news publications falls under the category of “illegal, misleading or deceptive” content. Zuckerberg, however, rejects the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the recent US presidential election.
April 13, 2017 – Announces that it has cracked down on 30,000 fake accounts in France ahead of the country’s presidential election. The accounts were targeted to prevent trolling, spam and hoaxes, a Facebook spokesman says.
August 3, 2017 – Rolls out a “Related Articles” feature that provides links to stories from fact checking sites such as Snopes and PolitiFact.
September 6, 2017 – The company reveals that it sold about $100,000 worth of ads during the 2016 US presidential election cycle from inauthentic accounts and pages “likely operated out of Russia.”
September 14, 2017 – ProPublica reports that Facebook’s platform allows advertisers to target users who enter terms such as “Jew hater” in the education or employment fields of their personal profiles. The next day, Facebook announces it removed antisemitic advertising categories.
September 15, 2017 – The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook has given Special Counsel Robert Mueller records related to Russia-linked ads that were posted on the social network during the US presidential campaign.
October 2, 2017 – Facebook gives Congress copies of the 3,000 political ads linked to Russia. CNN reports that some of the ads depicted refugees as rapists and others promoted gun rights. A ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee says he hopes to release a sampling of the ads to the public.
October 30, 2017 – CNN reports that Facebook executives will inform Congress that roughly 126 million Americans may have viewed content generated by a Kremlin-connected troll farm between June 2015 and August 2017. The next day, representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google testify before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism as legislators continue to probe Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
November 21, 2017 – ProPublica reports that it was able to buy dozens of housing advertisements targeted to audiences that excluded “African Americans, mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers.” The company previously said that it removed discriminatory ad tools after ProPublica published a report in September. A Facebook executive says that a technical glitch allowed ProPublica to purchase the ads.
March 16, 2018 – Facebook announces that it is suspending a data firm called Strategic Communication Laboratories and its subsidiary Cambridge Analytica, which provided the Donald Trump presidential campaign with digital voter outreach services. In a statement, the social network’s vice president and deputy general counsel say that Cambridge Analytica harvested user data through a third party app, violating the company’s policies protecting people’s information. The data was gathered by Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American psychology professor who built a Facebook app and got about 270,000 volunteers to take a personality quiz. The volunteers consented to share info from their profiles with Kogan for academic purposes. Kogan then turned over the data to Cambridge Analytica. When Facebook learned of the violation in 2015, the company removed the app and asked Cambridge Analytica to certify that it had deleted the harvested data.
March 17, 2018 – A joint investigation by the New York Times and the Observer of London reports that Cambridge Analytica obtained data from 50 million American Facebook users via Kogan’s app. Cambridge Analytica covered the expenses of creating the app and used the information to create targeted political advertising for Trump, according to the investigation.
March 20, 2018 – A group of Facebook investors file a federal lawsuit against the company for allegedly making “materially false and misleading statements” about its privacy policies.
March 21, 2018 – During an interview on CNN, Zuckerberg acknowledges that Facebook made mistakes and should have responded more robustly to secure user data. He also says that his company is prepping to combat potential meddling in the 2018 midterm elections. Earlier in the day, Zuckerberg posts a timeline of events that led to the Cambridge Analytica leak.
July 26, 2018 – Shares plunge 19% after executives warn that revenue growth would slow as the company focuses on user privacy. The sell-off vaporizes about $119 billion in market value – the biggest single-day loss for any public company in history.
July 31, 2018 – Facebook announces it has removed a network of suspected Russia-linked accounts and pages involved in organizing political events in the United States.
September 28, 2018 – Facebook announces that an attack on the social network has exposed information on nearly 50 million users, and says the FBI has been called in to investigate. On the day the breach is announced, two users file a class action lawsuit against the company.
October 12, 2018 – The company announces that it is investigating a security breach that enabled hackers to access phone numbers and email addresses for 30 million users.
November 5, 2018 – Facebook releases a report documenting the company’s failure to prevent the spread of misinformation in Myanmar, where the government has been accused of carrying out a brutal campaign of violence and oppression against the Rohingya, a religious minority of Muslims. Government propaganda was posted on Facebook. The propaganda linked the Rohingya to terrorists.
November 14, 2018 – The New York Times publishes an investigation into Facebook’s aggressive crisis management tactics amid the controversy over Russia’s alleged use of the platform to meddle in the 2016 election. The newspaper reports that the company hired an opposition research firm called Definers Public Affairs which engaged in campaigns against Facebook critics. Definers allegedly encouraged reporters to investigate possible ties between an anti-Facebook group and the liberal billionaire George Soros. After the New York Times story is published, Facebook announces that it no longer associates with Definers.
November 15, 2018 – During a conference call with reporters, Zuckerberg says that he learned of the company’s relationship with Definers via the New York Times article. The company posts a response to the article citing alleged inaccuracies.
December 14, 2018 – Facebook announces that a bug allowed third-party app developers to access photos people may not have shared publicly. As many as 6.8 million users could be affected.
December 18, 2018 – The New York Times reports that Facebook offered more of its users’ data to companies than it has admitted. Despite assurances from Zuckerberg that people “have complete control” over who sees their content, The Times said documents and interviews with 50 former Facebook employees indicate that the company gave other firms access to user data.
March 21, 2019 – Facebook discloses that a vast collection of the data of two third-party app users had been exposed to the public via Amazon’s cloud computing servers in a way that allowed it to be downloaded by the public.
March 28, 2019 – The Department of Housing and Urban Development announces it is charging Facebook with violating the Fair Housing Act. This follows a formal complaint filed in August 2018, where HUD claimed Facebook allows landlords and people selling homes to use its advertising platform to “engage in housing discrimination.” The complaint said advertisers can dictate who sees housing-related ads based on demographics.
May 2, 2019 – Facebook announces it has designated some high-profile people, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who’s known for using antisemitic language, and right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as “dangerous” and said it will be purging them from its platforms. Other people banned include Paul Nehlen, an antisemite who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2016 and 2018, and fringe right-wing media personalities Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos and Paul Joseph Watson.
July 24, 2019 – The Federal Trade Commission announces a $5 billion settlement with Facebook, resolving a sweeping investigation by regulators into how the company lost control over massive troves of personal data and mishandled its communications with users. It is the largest fine in FTC history.
September 6, 2019 – New York Attorney General Letitia James announces the attorneys general of eight states and the District of Columbia are launching an antitrust investigation into Facebook. James says, “We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.”
October 21, 2019 – Facebook announces it will start labeling publications that are “wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government as state-controlled media,” as part of a broader effort to prevent its platform from being abused to interfere with the 2020 US elections.
October 23, 2019 – Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee about Facebook’s plans for Libra, its cryptocurrency project. The focus of the hearing expands to include a wide range of concerns about Facebook, including questions for Zuckerberg over his company’s policy to not fact-check political ads run by elected officials and candidates.
June 1, 2020 – Some Facebook employees stage a virtual walkout to protest Zuckerberg’s decision not to act on a series of controversial posts from Trump. A source tells CNN that managers at Facebook were told by the company’s human resources department not to retaliate against staff who are planning to protest, or to make them use paid time-off.
July 29, 2020 – Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook and CEO of Google’s parent company Sundar Pichai all testify before a House subcommittee on antitrust to address concerns that their businesses may be harming competition.
September 3, 2020 – Zuckerberg announces that Facebook will not accept new political ads in the final week of the 2020 election campaign, but the platform will continue to allow politicians to run lies in ads through Election Day.
December 9, 2020 – Dozens of states and the federal government sue Facebook in twin antitrust lawsuits, alleging that the social media giant engaged in anticompetitive behavior. On June 29, 2021, a federal court dismisses the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust complaint, saying the agency had failed to provide evidence for its claim that the social media giant holds a monopoly in social networking. In August 2021, the FTC refiles its complaint. In January 2022, a federal judge rules that federal prosecutors can again to try to prove their allegations that Meta has illegally abused a monopoly in the marketplace for social media — and that its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp should be spun off.
January 2021 – In the wake of the US Capitol riots, a Facebook spokesperson tells CNN that the company has removed pages and groups representing militarized social movements and is continuing to take those pages down. However, posts promoting violence during inauguration week have continued to circulate on the platform. On January 7, Zuckerberg says in a blog post that Facebook will ban President Trump’s account from posting for at least the remainder of his term in office and perhaps “indefinitely.”
May 5, 2021 – Facebook’s Oversight Board upholds Trump’s suspension from using its platform. The landmark move affirms the company’s decision to suspend Trump in January after the US Capitol riots. The decision also applies to Facebook-owned Instagram where Trump has an account. The board says Facebook must review the decision within six months.
June 4, 2021 – Facebook announces Trump will be suspended from its platform until at least January 7th, 2023 – two years from when he was initially suspended.
October 3, 2021 – The identity of the Facebook whistleblower who released tens of thousands of pages of internal research and documents is revealed on “60 Minutes” as Frances Haugen. The product manager who worked on civic integrity issues at the company says the documents show that Facebook knows its platforms are used to spread hate, violence and misinformation, and that the company has tried to hide that evidence.
October 19, 2021 – The Justice Department announces that Facebook will have to pay more than $14 million to settle a case that alleged US workers were denied employment because it reserved jobs for foreign workers with temporary visas in 2018 and 2019.
October 28, 2021 – Zuckerberg announces Facebook is changing its corporate name to “Meta.” The company begins trading under the stock ticker “MVRS” on December 1.
January 2022 – On behalf of the people of Great Britain, Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, a senior adviser to Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) watchdog and a competition law academic, sues Meta for 2.3 billion pounds plus ($3.2 billion plus) in a class action lawsuit over allegations it abused its market dominance by exploiting the personal data of 44 million users.
February 14, 2022 – Texas files a lawsuit against Meta over allegations that a discontinued Facebook photo-tagging feature failed to get Texans’ informed consent before gathering their facial recognition data. The suit calls for the court to impose a combined $35,000 civil penalty on Meta per violation of state laws, which, given Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s allegation of billions of violations, could reach into the tens of billions of dollars.
February 15, 2022 – Meta agrees to pay $90 million to settle a decade-old class action lawsuit over a practice that allowed the social network to track users’ activity across the internet, even if they had logged out of the platform. The settlement is one of the largest in the history of the company.
July 27, 2022 – Meta reports its first year-over-year revenue decline since going public in 2012.
November 9, 2022 – Meta announces it is laying off 11,000 employees, marking the most significant job cuts in the tech giant’s history. The news comes amid a spate of layoffs at other tech firms in recent months as the sector reacts to high inflation, rising interest rates and fears of a looming recession. On March 14, 2023, Meta announces it is laying off another 10,000 workers.
July 5, 2023 – Meta officially launches the app Threads, which is intended to offer a space for real-time conversations online.
January 17, 2024 – Sheryl Sandberg announces she will not remain on the company’s board of directors after her term ends in May. She stepped down from her COO role in the fall of 2022.