What is The Root of All (Facebook) Evil?
Facebook is here to stay, for better and worse. But its majority owner and hapless, callow leader has got to go. Mark Zuckerberg is the source of all that is wrong with Facebook, and the world cannot afford to wait indefinitely for him to change for the better. What would it take to move Facebook from autocracy to democracy? Read on for my analysis of why this MUST happen...
Mark Zuckerberg Must Go!
Since Facebook’s debut (as “The Facebook”) in 2004, it has grown to over 2 billion members and has annual revenues exceeding $40 billion. Zuckerberg, at age 33, is the sixth richest guy in the world with a net worth just shy of $70 billion. Why should Zuckerberg change? I am not asking rhetorically. We need to give him a very good reason to change his job, at least; his sociopathic personality is the purview of medicine.
One characteristic of Sociopathic Personality Disorder is the inability to share or respect the fundamental moral values of society. Mark Zuckerberg exhibits this trait. He truly does not understand what is wrong about stealing, or lying, or taking predatory advantage of trust, or treating human beings’ personal data as a profitable commodity like wheat or tin. He has plainly demonstrated this sociopathic trait since his first stab at making a facebook, when he was a sophomore at Harvard College in 2003.
At that time, Harvard administrators were developing a campus-wide “face book,” an online catalog of students’ photographs and biographical data. The campus-wide face book would unite existing similar online systems organized at the dormitory (“residence hall) level. Administrators had been wrestling with the design of this system for several years. One of the major hold-ups was – you guessed it – privacy considerations.
It is one thing to give students who live under one roof access to photos and bios of their immediate neighbors. It is another thing to let any of Harvard’s 20,000-plus students access the same data about everyone else. It is a far more dangerous thing to let anyone on the Internet access that data. The delay in implementing a campus-wide face book was largely due to heated debate about how to protect students’ privacy while helping them get to know each other.
A number of students grew impatient with the project’s glacial progress, including Mark Zuckerberg. So he hacked into the residence face books and stole the photos and bios of his fellow students. I say “stole” because he “gained unauthorized access” to the data and asked no one’s permission to copy and use it, least of all his fellow students who clearly had an interest in such uses.
History Repeats Itself
Does any of this sound familiar? It should, because such misappropriation – theft – of people’s personal data has occurred over and over again throughout Facebook’s history. Or, more likely, it has been continuous and unrelenting, but authorities have only occasionally caught Zuckerberg at it.
One such occasion happened in 2007, when Facebook – which is synonymous with Zuckerberg - settled a Federal Trade Commission complaint that the company “deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public,” according to the FTC’s press release announcing the settlement.
The personal data that Zuckerberg stole from Harvard and his fellow students was quickly published in a reprehensible manner. By his own admission, he personally wrote the software for a site named “Facemash.com.” It displayed to visitors two female students’ photos side-by-side and let the visitor rate them according to their relative and absolute “attractiveness.” An algorithm, which was the progenitor of today’s mysterious Facebook algorithm, ranked the winners and losers of each “contest” and assigned each student a score that represented how “attractive” she was.
“FaceMash was a prank website that I launched in college, in my dorm room, before I started Facebook,” Zuckerberg said to Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) during his testimony before the Energy and Commerce Committee in April, 2018. He rejected the assertion that Facemash was the seed from which Facebook sprouted, although he did not deny the two were created at about the same time.
That looks like a lie, to put it cogently. The November 19, 2003, issue of The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper, tells a very different story.
Facemash remained online for two weeks, far longer than a “drunken prank” might be expected to continue. “The programming and algorithms that made the site function were Zuckerberg’s primary interest in creating it,” he said, according to The Crimson.
After he created the site, Zuckerberg sent its URL to some friends who quickly shared it. The link found its way onto several campus email list-serves and traffic skyrocketed from that exposure. In a single day, 450 people voted 22,000 times.
Zuckerberg displayed none of the remorse that a normal sober person would about his prank. He had no qualms about breaking and entering into Harvard’s computer network; no qualms about stealing fellow students’ personal data; no qualms about the despicable purpose of his “programming and algorithm.” He only regretted that Facemash had been seen by everyone, and that they did not approve.
After taking well-deserved heat from all sides for two weeks, Zuckerberg only took down Facemash the day before he was officially summoned to a disciplinary hearing, where Harvard’s computing services department accused him of “breaching security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy...” To quote The Crimson:
“’I understood that some parts were still a little sketchy and I wanted some more time to think about whether or not this was really appropriate to release to the Harvard community,’ Zuckerberg wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson.”
He concluded that he could not get away with Facemash. “Issues about violating people’s privacy don’t seem to be surmountable,” he wrote. You see? “Issues about privacy” are pesky things to be overcome, in his mind. There should not be any privacy “issues” if they are going to interfere with Mark doing what Mark wants to do.
Some would plead that Zuckerberg was “just a kid” at the time of Facemash, and that he has grown, matured, changed in the past 15 years. I remind them that this guy – the chief executive of the most powerful tech company ever – still dresses out of a closet full of gray t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes at the age of 33. He has not “grown up.” He will not change in any significant way.
What he has changed is his ability to pretend to be mature, thoughtful, compassionate, human. He now has plenty of adults around him to support that illusion, at least at work. In his personal life, not so much.
Zuckerberg bought 700 acres of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, built a $100 million mansion on the land, and promptly sued hundreds of his neighbors. That was his idea of how to “plant roots and join the community.” Just as he did with Facemash, Zuckerber “reconsidered” his land-grabbing strategy after a firestorm of criticism that any normal six year-old could have seen coming.
Zuckerberg cannot be trusted even to play by the rules he wrote himself. In 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump used his Facebook account to call for a ban on all Muslims from entering the USA. Such comments are a clear violation of Facebook’s so-called “Community Standards.” Some of Trump’s comments were deemed "hate speech" and taken down by Facebook’s staff -- only to be reinstated through the personal intervention of Mark Zuckerberg, who claimed that any harm that might come from it was outweighed by its “newsworthiness.”
What Will it Take To Move Facebook From One-Man Rule?
Zuckerberg cannot be trusted to exercise unfettered control over the most powerful social platform ever created. He has got to go. The only questions are, “How to get him to go” and “Who will replace him?” And I suppose there is a third question: "Will his replacement be any different?"
I believe that only an existential threat to Facebook itself can overcome Zuckerberg’s desire to remain at its helm. It doesn't seem likely that any form of public protest, or mass exodus from Facebook would be effective, or likely. Too many people are apathetic, addicted, or both. That threat may have to come in the form of hefty fines, regulation, or something more drastic imposed by governmental bodies.
As for who might be trusted to wield Facebook’s power, the answer must be “No one.” That's why I used the words "autocracy" and "democracy" in the opening paragraph of this article. Not one single person should be hold absolute away over the most powerful social media tool on the planet, but a board of governors who are diverse in their opinions and strong in their principles. Pretty much the opposite of the current situation.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 30 Jul 2018
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