Sep 10, 2018 - Technology

Zuckerberg strains to corral his baby


Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

As Facebook grew, Mark Zuckerberg and his executives adopted a core belief, Evan Osnos writes in The New Yorker after spending hours with Zuckerberg: "[E]ven if people criticized your decisions, they would eventually come around."

The big picture: For years, that was true. And Facebook reveled in its power: "Zuckerberg was convinced that he was ahead of his users, not at odds with them." It no longer is, of course, as Facebook faces blowback from users and government around the world: "As Facebook expanded, so did its blind spots."

Evan had a series of conversations with Zuckerberg over the summer (at his home, at his office, and by phone) and came away with unsparing insights into the challenges facing this most consequential of creations — and its creator:

  • "I found Zuckerberg straining, not always coherently, to grasp problems for which he was plainly unprepared."
  • "These are not technical puzzles to be cracked in the middle of the night but some of the subtlest aspects of human affairs, including the meaning of truth, the limits of free speech, and the origins of violence."
  • "Zuckerberg is now at the center of a full-fledged debate about the moral character of Silicon Valley and the conscience of its leaders."
  • "To avoid further crises, he will have to embrace the fact that he’s now a protector of the peace, not a disrupter of it."

Evan's bottom line: "Zuckerberg is not yet thirty-five, and the ambition with which he built his empire could well be directed toward shoring up his company, his country, and his name. The question is not whether Zuckerberg has the power to fix Facebook but whether he has the will."

  • Leslie Berlin, a historian of technology at Stanford: "[T]he question Mark Zuckerberg is dealing with is: Should my company be the arbiter of truth and decency for two billion people? Nobody in the history of technology has dealt with that."

P.S. How his life has changed: "For many years, Zuckerberg ended Facebook meetings with the half-joking exhortation 'Domination!' Although he eventually stopped doing this (in European legal systems, 'dominance' refers to corporate monopoly), his discomfort with losing is undimmed."

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