Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wired: Facebook's Two Years of Hell, and Zuckerberg's Manifesto

The March 2018 issue of Wired offers a cover with Mark Zuckerberg having undergone what looks like a bloody nose attack (or cut eyelash) from Vladimir Putin. Perhaps Putin doesn’t want to allow a 33-year-old become more powerful than Putin.

On p. 46 there appears the booklet-length essay by Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein, ”Inside  the Two Years that Shook Facebook, and the World”, link (paywall after free article allotment;  I bough a print copy at Union Station today after the kids’ “National Walk Out” gun demonstration on the Capitol Grounds).
The narrative begins with a tale of the firings of two contract employees, one of whom had done some private sleuthing of Facebook’s intended way of trying to defeat Trump in early 2016.  One of the employees was fired only for social media connection to a Gizmodo editor who released the leak. But then the article (in thirteen sections) goes back to give the history of Facebook’s energy in doing news aggregation, for the bucks. 

The article explains how Facebook has depended on Section 230, discussed widely on the blogs in connection with trafficking, especially sex trafficking and Backpage. So Facebook insisted on neutrality in presenting content to users, considering only the users’ interests according to algorithms.
Facebook wanted to have its chocolate cake and eat it too.  Newscorp (Fox) acted threatening, as Facebook was creating serfdoms to subordinate the news media, and underming Section 230 might be a way to hit back.  (That could silence individual bloggers, like me, over eventual downstream liability fears).  
By mid 2016, it had become evident that the neutrality was an albatross.  Trump’s people considered how to use the idea to feed fake stories about Hillary Clinton, and soon the Russians were doing it. Facebook was becoming a publisher of supermarket tabloid stuff while pretending not to be one.
The article discusses Zuckerberg’s 5700-word “Manifesto”, titled “Building Global Community” , from February 2017.  He does talk about Supportive, Safe, Inclusive, Informed, and especially Engaged communities.   It is the last one that is the hardest.  The new world seems to demand personalized community engagement that would have been unwelcome in the past.   But the Manifesto was written before Mark saw  all the wheels that had come off. 

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