mfioretti: zuckerberg*

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  1. dismissing Facebook’s change as a mere strategy credit is perhaps to give short shrift to Zuckerberg’s genuine desire to leverage Facebook’s power to make the world a better place. Zuckerberg argued in his 2017 manifesto Building Global Community:

    Progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community. This is especially important right now. Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community. When we began, this idea was not controversial. Every year, the world got more connected and this was seen as a positive trend. Yet now, across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection. There are questions about whether we can make a global community that works for everyone, and whether the path ahead is to connect more or reverse course.

    Our job at Facebook is to help people make the greatest positive impact while mitigating areas where technology and social media can contribute to divisiveness and isolation. Facebook is a work in progress, and we are dedicated to learning and improving. We take our responsibility seriously.

    That, though, leaves the question I raised in response to that manifesto:

    Even if Zuckerberg is right, is there anyone who believes that a private company run by an unaccountable all-powerful person that tracks your every move for the purpose of selling advertising is the best possible form said global governance should take?

    My deep-rooted suspicion of Zuckerberg’s manifesto has nothing to do with Facebook or Zuckerberg; I suspect that we agree on more political goals than not. Rather, my discomfort arises from my strong belief that centralized power is both inefficient and dangerous: no one person, or company, can figure out optimal solutions for everyone on their own, and history is riddled with examples of central planners ostensibly acting with the best of intentions — at least in their own minds — resulting in the most horrific of consequences; those consequences sometimes take the form of overt costs, both economic and humanitarian, and sometimes those costs are foregone opportunities and innovations. Usually it’s both.

    Facebook’s stated reasoning for this change only heightens these contradictions: if indeed Facebook as-is harms some users, fixing that is a good thing. And yet the same criticism becomes even more urgent: should the personal welfare of 2 billion people be Mark Zuckerberg’s personal responsibility?
    https://stratechery.com/2018/facebooks-motivations
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  2. Facebook has faced many challenges in 2017, and Zuckerberg wants to acknowledge that the message has been received.

    Many believe that the social network hasn’t done enough to block fake news and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Terrorists take advantage of online platforms to recruit new terrorists. Online abuse has never been so bad. And people are realizing that mindlessly browsing a newsfeed is a pure waste of time.

    “The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent,” Zuckerberg wrote. “My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues. We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we’re successful this year then we’ll end 2018 on a much better trajectory.”

    Zuckerberg has an important responsibility as he’s at the helm of a centralized platform that has become the cornerstone of public opinion. Articles become viral and algorithms encourage outrage. In his statement, he also says that people have lost faith in centralized platforms and big communities.

    And this is key to understanding Zuckerberg’s statement. This isn’t about making the world a better place. First, Zuckerberg wants to foster trust to drive growth and make people love Facebook again. Second, Facebook wants to prove that it can regulate itself. The company doesn’t want to deal with new regulation, antitrust committee and Senate investigations.

    If only Zuckerberg realized all of that earlier… But don’t worry, now he’s on it! I’m sure Zuckerberg will still find ways to have fun — he just won’t brag about it publicly on Facebook.

    Every year I take on a personal challenge to learn something new. I’ve visited every US state, run 365 miles, built an AI for my home, read 25 books, and learned Mandarin.

    I started doing these challenges in 2009. That first year the economy was in a deep recession and Facebook was not yet profitable. We needed to get serious about making sure Facebook had a sustainable business model. It was a serious year, and I wore a tie every day as a reminder.

    Today feels a lot like that first year. The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.
    https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/04/mar...hallenge-is-all-about-fixing-facebook
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-04)
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  3. Facebook has turned into a toxic commodity since Mr Trump was elected. Big Tech is the new big tobacco in Washington. It is not a question of whether the regulatory backlash will come, but when and how.

    Mr Zuckerberg bears responsibility for this. Having denied Facebook’s “filter bubble” played any role in Mr Trump’s victory — or Russia’s part in helping clinch it — Mr Zuckerberg is the primary target of the Democratic backlash. He is now asking America to believe that he can turn Facebook’s news feed from an echo chamber into a public square. Revenue growth is no longer the priority. “None of that matters if our services are used in a way that doesn’t bring people closer together,” he says.

    How will Mr Zuckerberg arrange this Kumbaya conversion? By boosting the community ties that only Facebook can offer. Readers will forgive me if I take another lie down. Mr Zuckerberg suffers from two delusions common to America’s new economy elites. They think they are nice people — indeed, most of them are. Mr Zuckerberg seems to be, too. But they tend to cloak their self-interest in righteous language. Talking about values has the collateral benefit of avoiding talking about wealth. If the rich are giving their money away to good causes, such as inner city schools and research into diseases, we should not dwell on taxes. Mr Zuckerberg is not funding any private wars in Africa. He is a good person. The fact that his company pays barely any tax is therefore irrelevant.

    The second liberal delusion is to believe they have a truer grasp of people’s interests than voters themselves. In some cases that might be true. It is hard to see how abolishing health subsidies will help people who live in “flyover” America. But here is the crux. It does not matter how many times Mr Zuckerberg invokes the magic of online communities. They cannot substitute for the real ones that have gone missing. Bowling online together is no cure for bowling offline alone.

    The next time Mr Zuckerberg wants to showcase Facebook, he should invest some of his money in an actual place. It should be far away from any of America’s booming cities — say Youngstown, Ohio. For the price of a couple of days’ Facebook revenues, he could train thousands of people. He might even fund a newspaper to make up for social media’s destruction of local journalism. The effect could be electrifying. Such an example would bring a couple more benefits. First, it would demonstrate that Mr Zuckerberg can listen, rather than pretending to. Second, people will want to drop round to his place for dinner.
    https://medium.com/financial-times/the-zuckerberg-delusion-5d427c5d699a
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  4. When it comes to human beings — what motivates them, how they interact socially, to what end they organize politically — figures like Page and Zuckerberg know very little. Almost nothing, in fact. And that ignorance has enormous consequences for us all.
    http://theweek.com/articles/731764/genius-stupidity-silicon-valley
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  5. In a largely automated platform like Facebook, what matters most is not the political beliefs of the employees but the structures, algorithms and incentives they set up, as well as what oversight, if any, they employ to guard against deception, misinformation and illegitimate meddling. And the unfortunate truth is that by design, business model and algorithm, Facebook has made it easy for it to be weaponized to spread misinformation and fraudulent content. Sadly, this business model is also lucrative, especially during elections. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, called the 2016 election “a big deal in terms of ad spend” for the company, and it was. No wonder there has been increasing scrutiny of the platform.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/29/opinion/mark-zuckerberg-facebook.html
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  6. Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg shared some happy news with the world. He and his wife are expecting a baby girl. Congratulations! Here’s how the New York Times described it:

    Mr. Zuckerberg, chief executive of the social networking giant, wrote in an uncharacteristically personal post that he and Ms. Chan had had three miscarriages before this pregnancy — at once demonstrating a personal desire to break the stigma associated with women who miscarry and his business-related belief in Facebook as an ideal place for users to record life events.

    Here’s how Mark continued:

    Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you — as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own. In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.

    Again: Congratulations!

    But this moment is worth pondering, because this is actually first a celebration of privacy and control, and only then of being open. And it’s clear Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan had privacy and control over their news, because the world did not know this before they chose to share it with us — and it wasn’t our business if and when they chose to share. This is, as the New York Times says, “an uncharacteristically personal” post. Most of the time, Mark Zuckerberg guards his privacy like a hawk. (He is purchasing homes around his, and a whole island in Hawaii, to protect his privacy).

    Chosing when to be not so open, and choosing to “be closed,” choosing with whom to share sad, challenging or uncomfortable news, or any kind of news for that matter, is the bedrock which allows people to be open and connected, when the time is right for them.
    https://medium.com/message/mark-zucke...open-and-connected-world-e0a1acea89bd
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-04-20)
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  7. In the digital age, algorithms are a source not only of wealth but of power. The decoupling of the generation of news (by journalists) from the means of its distribution (social networks) is a major shift in information power. What a Facebook user sees is an interplay between strategies set by humans, algorithms which they design and the information which the software accumulates about an individual user’s preferences. So the distribution of power in ths new relationship is subtle, but it is still power. Networks have power which other institutions and organisations don’t. The giants of Silicon Valley have, simply by virtue of their scale, informational power which is unprecedented. Digital technology re-routes information at a speed and on a scale previously unknown. We are only just getting a handle on where and how power has been shifted by those opportunities. Private companies rarely admit their power, but to write – as Zuckerberg does – as if Facebook was a benign, self-governing collective with no decisions about how to use its power is to deny a reality plain to see
    http://georgebrock.net/mr-zuckerbergs-education
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  8. Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg seems to be easing ever more into his role as benevolent dictator of the media universe. As recently as just after the U.S. elections in November, he attempted to dodge responsibility for Facebook’s role in shaping the outcome. Now, three months later, he is ready to take charge of the security, accuracy and diversity of how the world shares information. And he wants our help.

    The latter third of the essay centers around a call for Facebook to “explore examples of how community governance might work at scale.” This comes in the context of the declining fortunes of democracy in governments the world over; we may be losing our countries to authoritarians, but at least we will have our Facebook. The proposal seems to amount to a cascading series of online focus groups—of which we may or may not know we are a part—managed by artificial intelligence in order to develop fine-tuned acceptability standards for content across various world cultures. But democracy is not a focus group.

    Democracy is not a focus group.
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    Democracy means ownership and accountability, along with shared governance. That is how you make sure the governance is real, that it matters and that participants will take it seriously. In a country with functioning democracy, citizens vote responsibly because they know they will own the consequences if they don’t. They will be footing the bill. Same with the investors in a corporation or the members of a cooperative business, whether it is a neighborhood food co-op or a national credit union.

    Offering free input to an unaccountable oligarchy is very different. It is more like feudalism. King Louis XVI offered his subjects focus groups when he initiated the Cahiers de Doléances in early 1789; it was only with the start of the revolution later that year that the process of securing some real democracy began. If Mr. Zuckerberg’s vision for government is anything like Facebook’s past experiments with referenda on its terms of service, users should demand better before the sham-democracy starts.

    Ownership is also about economics. It is about who benefits. Right now, Facebook is in the process of absorbing huge swaths of the global advertising market, lots of our life-giving communities and now much of politics and media—funnelling the profits mainly to the founders, early investors and other large shareholders. Mr. Zuckerberg has tried to dismiss this concern. “One thing I have been wondering recently is if people misdiagnosed it that the hope for the future is all economic,” he told Kara Swisher in an interview about the manifesto. “But the things that are happening in our world now are all about the social world not being what people need.”

    This billionaire’s refusal to recognize the rise of authoritarianism as a symptom of economic inequality and insecurity is startling. He views unrest—as authoritarians tend to—as a problem of faulty management, not of unjust accumulations of power.
    http://www.americamagazine.org/politi...rg-democracy-not-facebook-focus-group
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  9. Poverty is an economic situation, but whether poverty grows or declines is, to a great extent, the result of political choices that we make. If we speak about poverty outside of the context of politics, we are fooling ourselves.

    Which brings us to the Summit on Technology and Opportunity, the invite-only event that just concluded on Stanford’s rarefied campus. I don’t wish to criticize the individual participants in the event—in isolation, they represent a wide array of worthy charitable endeavors and academic research. But I do wish the criticize the mindstate and political posturing that leads to the White House lending its imprimatur to such an event. With all of the do-gooder conferences in the world, why does the White House come to put its name on one that explicitly holds up technology and private philanthropy and public-private partnership as the solution to poverty? This summit did not spend its time discussing new taxes and government regulations to rein in inequality, or how to purge Congress of members hostile to poverty-fighting legislation; instead, its sessions touted “Philanthropy as a Catalyst” and “Technology to Facilitate Financial Access” and “Tech Talent for Public Impact and the Way Ahead.”

    This purge of politics from the language of poverty-fighting was not a mistake. It was the point. And that is why it is hollow.

    Poverty and wealth are inextricably linked. The economy is not a zero-sum game.

    Poverty is an economic situation, but whether poverty grows or declines is, to a great extent, the result of political choices that we make. If we speak about poverty outside of the context of politics, we are fooling ourselves.

    Which brings us to the Summit on Technology and Opportunity, the invite-only event that just concluded on Stanford’s rarefied campus. I don’t wish to criticize the individual participants in the event—in isolation, they represent a wide array of worthy charitable endeavors and academic research. But I do wish the criticize the mindstate and political posturing that leads to the White House lending its imprimatur to such an event. With all of the do-gooder conferences in the world, why does the White House come to put its name on one that explicitly holds up technology and private philanthropy and public-private partnership as the solution to poverty? This summit did not spend its time discussing new taxes and government regulations to rein in inequality, or how to purge Congress of members hostile to poverty-fighting legislation; instead, its sessions touted “Philanthropy as a Catalyst” and “Technology to Facilitate Financial Access” and “Tech Talent for Public Impact and the Way Ahead.”

    This purge of politics from the language of poverty-fighting was not a mistake. It was the point. And that is why it is hollow.

    Poverty and wealth are inextricably linked. The economy is not a zero-sum game, but the fruits of the economic growth that creates and fuels wealthy nations like ours are hoarded to a shocking extent by a tiny group at the top, which warps our political system

    Philanthropy is the privatization of the social safety net. That is not a desirable state of affairs. Social Security and Medicare and the CDC are robust government programs with millions of stakeholders; Mark Zuckerberg’s charity is ultimately at the whim of two people. We do not need a nation that turns to its tech-enriched kings and begs them to solve poverty. We need a nation that acts collectively to build an economy in which our wealth is shared.
    http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/pove...chnology-it-needs-politics-1789520902
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  10. Perhaps not many people will see the connection between today being the first day Gawker is gone, it being the 25th Anniversary of the Web, and the message all Facebook users were greeted with this morning.

    Gawker is gone because Peter Thiel financed its murder-by-lawyer. It's legal to do this in the US, but until now as far as I know, no one has crossed this line. Now that the line has been crossed, it's fair to assume it will become standard practice for billionaires like Thiel to finance lawsuits until the publication loses and has to sell itself to pay the judgment.
    It's the 25th Anniversary of the Web because 25 years ago a generous visionary named Tim Berners-Lee invented something that would benefit humanity more than it would benefit him. And many other visionaries saw it, and because it was open, were able to build anything they could imagine using it as a basis. And they did, making something like Facebook possible.
    Facebook is a silo for web writing. And while it would be easy for them to create paths for ideas to flow in and out of Facebook, at very low cost, and they have the features already developed, and use them internally, they refuse to share them with users. I suppose we could just explain this as they're a very large tech company and that's what tech companies do, but they also have the chutzpah to pretend to support the open web. They have been happy to accept its bounty and have done nothing to return what they've taken from the commons to the commons.
    And finally, remember Peter Thiel, the guy who thinks his wealth entitles him to shut down publications he doesn't like, not only did he make billions from Facebook stock, he's still on the board of Facebook. Zuckerberg has had plenty of time to ask him to leave, or to fire him, and he hasn't done it. Again, you could just shrug it off and say Zuck is like Thiel, but he's extra special in that he wants you to believe he appreciates the gift of the open web, as he strangles it.
    http://scripting.com/2016/08/23/gawkerTheOpenWebThielAndZuck.html
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