Fact-checking Facebook’s fantasies | FT

Fact-checking Facebook’s fantasies | FT


I wrote a column
recently fact-checking some of the claims that
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, made in a recent speech
at Georgetown University and some subsequent testimony
on Capitol Hill, in which he was trying to defend the social
media giant against accusations of incorrect political
advertising, election manipulation, monopoly
power, et cetera. We at another crossroads. We can either continue to
stand for free expression, understanding its
messiness but believing that the long journey
towards greater progress requires confronting
ideas that challenge us. Or we can decide that the
cost is simply too great. And I’m here today because I
believe that we must continue to stand for free expression. Zuckerberg claimed that Facebook
is part of the fifth estate. That’s a term that’s
generally used in the US to explain members
of the counterculture – bloggers, journalists,
who are outsiders. It’s also associated
with a Detroit magazine, an anarchist magazine
that actually was protesting, amongst
other things, capitalism. This is quite an
irony for a man who has become a billionaire by the
industrial-level monetisation of personal data. That’s another issue
in Zuckerberg’s speech that I took exception to. Facebook’s business model – the
targeted advertising business model – has always been
incredibly powerful. In fact, if you go back
to the original paper that the inventors of
surveillance capitalism, Google, founders Larry
Page and Sergey Brin, did in 1998 on search. They actually talked
about potential ways that search and
targeted advertising could be misused
by both companies, but also potentially,
public actors. So it’s very interesting
that Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg are
claiming that they didn’t know how big and
powerful Facebook could get. The other thing that
I take exception to in Zuckerberg’s
speech is the idea that Facebook is, in some way,
a national champion for the US. This is a line
that you’re hearing a lot more of in Washington. Big tech executives like to
say that if they’re broken up, then China will move
ahead of the US. But the idea of a large
multinational company like Facebook being some kind of
patriotic champion of America’s national interests is
just patently false. Facebook, like many
other companies, would love to be
in China, but can’t be because of the ring-fenced
digital ecosystem there. So that’s my fact check
of Mark Zuckerberg.

9 Comments on "Fact-checking Facebook’s fantasies | FT"


  1. Delightful column and video. "Surveillance Capitalism" is a perfect term to classify the business model of our tech giants. Of course it pairs with "Surveillance Government" which we now have in Spades courtesy of the powers given to the NSA by the Patriot Act…which of course have been put to use. Enough to make one long for a time when the only big time snooper was the Stasi.

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  2. 'Free expression' seems to be the last refuge argument of every shyster, charlatan and scumbag in our society these days.

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  3. This video is good as a commentary but it's really not great as a fact checking exercise. I was expecting more facts and more checking, but the only thing that was confronted was the claim of the 5th estate. Isn't there any other thing to confront?

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  4. The lesser of two evils is "Surveillance Capitalism" as compared to the "Surveillance State". I'd rather have "Surveillance Capitalism" because at least there is a democratically elected State that can keep the Surveillance in check.

    Reply

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