The People v Facebook

Goodness gracious:

When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem.

And when that failed — as the company’s stock price plummeted and sparked a consumer backlash — Facebook went on the attack.

While Mr. Zuckerberg conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook’s critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, persuading a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

In Washington, allies of Facebook, including Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, intervened on its behalf. And Ms. Sandberg wooed or cajoled hostile lawmakers, while trying to dispel Facebook’s reputation as a bastion of Bay Area liberalism.

I’ve long believed that Facebook is particularly vulnerable, compared to many of the companies presently considered to be their peers, because they don’t offer a hard service nor are their central to the Internet or computing experience. They need goodwill. Which makes stuff like this so potentially bad for them, and also compels them to do it in the first place.

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15 thoughts on “The People v Facebook

  1. Between this and the Amazon HQ2 story, the media really has a dysfunctional relationship with tech. It’s replacing/has replaced the media’s dysfunctional relationship with finance. I say dysfunctional because there really is no chill. Either we read stories in which tech companies and management are portrayed as visionaries and saviors or stories where they are portrayed as dangerous and manipulative.

    This is the same Sheryl Sandberg who was the poster child of corporate feminism just a couple of years ago. She was the same person then. The more the media tries to tell us who the good guys and the bad guys are, the more they miss the facts of the story. This won’t end well.

    On Facebook itself, I have to say that I don’t care. If a web site can destroy our democracy, then our democracy wasn’t going to survive in the first place.

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        • So let’s say that Facebook hired a Republican opposition-research firm *AND* persuaded a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

          Like, let’s say that we can prove that to the satisfaction of a jury in the court of law.

          So, assuming those things are provable…

          Can we then call them “facts”?

          Let’s say that, okay, they’re now established facts.

          Then what?

          I suppose it’s a good opportunity to sell, sell, sell. Perhaps call for the board to remove whatshisnuts from the CEO position. But there’s nothing that can really be done.

          It’s not illegal. It’s just unethical as hell.

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          • I’m not sure the Board can remove Zuckerberg… last I checked, unlike most Tech Billionaires*, he still owns 51+% of the voting stock. From a corporate ownership perspective, Zuckerberg *is* facebook.

            Obviously its more complicated than a sole proprietorship in a small family business… but Zuck has never relinquished control.

            *Google also has dual shares where the founders jointly control a majority of voting stock, IIRC.

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            • After the “pivot to video” scandal about advertising rates and now this… if Zuck can’t be removed, he can’t be removed.

              I suppose it might be possible to pressure the board to resign… but that sounds silly and ineffectual just being typed.

              I’ll try to use it less. (Not that I use it a lot.)

              But it sounds like nothing can be done.

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              • You would have to argue(/threaten) that its in his best financial interest to take a step back… though at this point in time I expect he’s sufficiently diversified to not need the “extra” billions tied-up in facebook stock. He has proverbial FU billions elsewhere. So if he wants to fly Facebook into the sun, he can fly Facebook into the sun.

                Sometimes I wonder if Facebook is already dead, but it doesn’t know it yet. Sort of like Hemingway’s observation that he went broke slowly at first, then all at once. The only moat around the business is the network effect.

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          • Then what?

            What’s the actual question and to whom are you asking? The details matter.

            I’m an occasional user of FB. I used to be a several-times-daily user, but then I took it off my phone and now I check it a couple-few times a week. Will this make me abandon FB altogether? Probably not. I just don’t care enough. And that is my ultimate point, FB is as important as we allow it to be.

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            • To whom am I asking? Everybody, I guess. Nobody, I guess.

              This is just another thing that was bad and about which we can do nothing.

              I mean, even if Trump did something bad, we could, in theory, not vote for him. Perhaps even vote *AGAINST* him.

              What do we do about Facebook?

              I don’t think that there’s anything we could do. Even in theory.

              Maybe follow Zuck around and never let him eat in peace at a restaurant ever again. Go to his house and bang on his door and chant things. Antifa stuff.

              But apart from stuff that benefits from wearing a balaclava? There is nothing.

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