Facebook is perhaps the best example of how a great idea of connecting with family and friends online can become a catastrophe in just 15 years of its existence.
From the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, housing ad bias, the misuse of facial recognition software, frequent users’ data leaks, targeted advertising with tweaked algorithms and so on — Facebook is losing the grip over issues it could have avoided in the first place.
For someone who has been on the inside – this is the story of losing faith in a company he saw growing as he mentored its CEO Mark Zuckerberg who was struggled to take early decisions that made Facebook, Facebook.
Roger McNamee, a famed Silicon Valley fund manager and venture capitalist, mentored Zuckerberg during his crucial formative years, helping him with two big decisions – the turning down of Yahoo’s $1 billion deal in 2006 and the hiring of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
“Zucked” (a sarcastic reference to people who lost money in the Facebook IPO in 2012) is an account where McNamee — who first met Mark Zuckerberg in 2006 when the Facebook CEO was 22 and he was 50 – opens up his heart about how tech platforms like Facebook are taking advantage of users’ trust, how success can breed overconfidence and how the best ideas and intentions can go horribly wrong.
“In the year I know them best, the Facebook team focused on attracting the largest possible audience, not on monetisation. Persuasive technology and manipulation never came up. It was all babies and puppies and sharing with friends,” writes McNamee.
Today, Zuckerberg is planning to merge its platforms — Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram — into one entity, thus making more money while throwing end-to-end encryption for a toss.
The Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections via Facebook (126 million users were exposed to messages that were originated in Russia) and the Cambridge Analytica data scandal involving 87 million users later changed everything for the social media giant that has over 2.2 billion monthly active users.
“Zuck and his team did not anticipate that the design choices that made Facebook so compelling for users would also enable a wide range of undesirable behaviours. Facebook first denied their existence, then responsibility for them. Perhaps it was a reflexive corporate reaction,” laments McNamee.
Today, the governments across the world — from the US to the EU — are tightening social media regulations and punishing Facebook and other tech companies for either misusing their software architecture or showing an irresponsible behaviour towards the users.
McNamee, now 62, saw this coming long back and even warned Zuckerberg and Sheryl on this several times but to no avail.
“Zuck’s and Sheryl’s failure to take action to address obvious flaws in the product and to protect their brand is at least suggestive of their monopoly power. They may not have been concerned about brand damage because they knew the users had no alternative,” says the man who co-founded private equity giant Silver Lake Partners.
There is, however, second possible explanation why Facebook ignored early warnings from McNamee and later criticism from several quarters.
“From his time at Harvard, Zuckerberg showed persistent indifference to authority, rules and the users of his products.
“Users either did not know or did not care about the loss of privacy,” he writes, and Zuckerberg knew this.
Is there a way out?
The solution now rests with the users, the employees and the regulation to tame the monster called Facebook.
“In my dreams, billions of users will rebel, changing their usage of Internet platforms in ways that force massive change.
“The employees of Facebook and Google will be the change agents”, he says.
In fact, they already are, if you have read recent news where Google employees staged walkouts against workplace harassment or forced the company shelve the controversial Pentagon AI project.
After facing intense protests over sexual misconduct and discrimination at workplace, Google has decided to end the forced arbitration policy for its employees.
“The policy makers around the globe must accept responsibility for protecting their constituents. The stakes could not be higher,” says McNamee.
Although the history of Facebook has been written many times, “Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe” is more relevant as the social media giant faces extreme heat over increasing political interference from nation-state bad actors amid an unabated spread of fake news and misinformation on its platform. (IANS)
Despite Facebook’s claim that the livestreaming video of the March 15 Christchurch shooting that killed 50 people was removed from its platforms, sections of the raw footage are still available for users to watch, the media reported.
According to a report in Motherboard on Friday, certain videos on Facebook and Instagram show sections of the raw attack footage.
“The world’s biggest and most well-resourced social media network is still hosting copies of the violent attack video on its own platform as well as Instagram,” the report claimed.
Some of the videos are slices of the original 17-minute clip — trimmed down to one minute or so — and are open to be viewed by anyone.
In one instance, instead of removing the video, which shows the terrorist shooting and murdering innocent civilians from a first-person perspective, Facebook has simply marked the clip as potentially containing “violent or graphic content”.
One of the clips shows the terrorist walking up to the first mosque he targeted, and opening fire. The video does not show the full attack, and stops at the 01:15 mark.
A Facebook spokesperson, however, said “the video did violate our policies and has been removed”.
The Facebook livestreaming of the New Zealand terror attack sparked global outrage. The video was viewed over 4,000 times before it was removed.
The video was later shared in millions on other social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube.
Facing flak, the social media giant is now exploring restrictions on who can use its “Facebook Live” feature.
Earlier this month, New Zealand’s privacy commissioner John Edwards labelled Facebook as “morally bankrupt pathological liars” after the social media platform’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to play down the Facebook livestreaming of Christchurch shooting. (IANS)