WhatsApp Founder, Who Made Billions from Facebook Deal, Says 'It Is Time' to Delete the Social Network

The co-founder of WhatsApp, who made billions from its sale to Facebook, has thrown his support behind a campaign against the U.S. social network.

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal, in which 50 million user profiles from the Mark Zuckerberg-led platform were allegedly harvested in 2014 for use in targeted advertising operations, billionaire Brian Acton joined the growing anti-Facebook sentiment with one simple tweet.

On Tuesday he urged his 25,000 followers: "It is time. #DeleteFacebook." The movement gathered pace this week with Google searches for "How to delete Facebook" spiking. Critics slammed the website's executives for staying silent during the crisis. While Facebook played down reports of a "breach," the conversation quickly broadened as users started to debate the sensitivities of data collection.

WhatsApp, which Acton founded alongside former Yahoo computer programmer Jan Koum, is a chat application currently used by more than 1 billion people. It was sold to Facebook back in 2014 for approximately $22 billion in cash and shares.

According to Forbes, Acton, 46, made $3 billion from his stake in the company and currently has a net worth of $5.5bn. He is placed on the rich list at number 251.

It is time. #deletefacebook

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) March 20, 2018

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Facebook addressed reports of growing dissent within its userbase. It claimed it had been duped by Cambridge Analytica.

A spokesperson told Newsweek via email: Mark [Zuckerberg], Sheryl [Sandberg] and their teams are working around the clock to get all the facts and take the appropriate action moving forward, because they understand the seriousness of this issue. The entire company is outraged we were deceived.

"We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people's information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens."

The same day, the data analytics firm was embroiled in further scandal after an exposé was aired by U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 showing Cambridge Analytica executives, including its CEO Alexander Nix, speaking to an undercover reporter about how it had helped to elect U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Nix was later suspended from his role at Cambridge Analytica, which denies the accusations of data misuse and claims the explosive news report was "entrapment." But Carole Cadwalladr, the journalist who broke the story, was not convinced.

She tweeted on Tuesday: "Cambridge Analytica exists only on paper. Alexander Nix is CEO of SCL Elections. From which he hasn't been suspended."

Initial reporting, based on the testimony from former Cambridge Analytica staffer Christopher Wylie, 28 emerged on March 17 in The Observer and the New York Times. Facebook, which admitted to being aware of the widespread data mining issue in 2015, banned the analytics firm from its website one day prior.

Cambridge Analytica
Posters depicting Cambridge Analytica's CEO Alexander Nix behind bars, with the slogan 'Our Data Not His. Go Straight To Jail' are pictured at the entrance of the company's offices in central London on March 20, 2018 DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images