Facebook shows how great power comes with great irresponsibility

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What is the price of being connected? Most of us, addicted to the Internet for work, play and all the rest, are reconciled with the daily and hourly intrusion into our lives and minds by web browsers, search engines and algorithms. social networks. If you think about it too deeply, you may experience a sense of panic, and it’s smarter not to, because what’s the alternative, really? So we set up a few ad blockers, use the browser’s incognito mode when we remember, and righteously remove social media apps from our phones, deciding to only use desktop sites.

How did we get here? This is what Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel, award-winning tech journalists at The New York Times, discover in their new book, The Ugly Truth: In the Battle for Facebook Dominance. The headline comes from a startling and shameless truth bomb dropped by Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, currently head of Facebook’s augmented and virtual reality and creator of the game-changing Facebook news feed, in a note shared with employees in 2016. “The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good. What Boz didn’t say is that “Connecting people” is not only a generous and altruistic goal for the company, it is what allows it to make billions of dollars.

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In the opening chapters, Kang and Frenkel delve into the period between the founding of Facebook and the 2016 US presidential election, analyzing events and decisions that might have seemed minor at the time, but ended up having a disproportionate impact. not just about how the business would shape. but on the real world – choices made that would allow the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In the following chapters, they discuss how Facebook, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and COO Sheryl Sandberg have, despite numerous attempts by governments and regulators to control its influence, evade prosecution and interference, and how the management of the company has consistently stopped efforts. to plug leaking holes, even by employees and crews who have been tasked with finding those holes in the first place.

An ugly truth follows in the footsteps of books like Steven Levy’s Facebook and Sarah Frier No filter: Instagram’s inner story, both of which were released last year, but it’s different in the way it focuses on what’s been going on inside Facebook and the dynamics that have enabled and encouraged bad decisions. The authors conducted more than 400 interviews with people associated with Facebook, including former and current employees (many of whom chose to remain anonymous) to understand how, at every potential turning point, the company ultimately prioritized growth over growth. moral responsibility.

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“An Ugly Truth: In the Battle for Facebook Dominance”; edited by Hachette India; 352 pages; ??799
(Hachette India)


The only part you must read is chapter 7, Company in the country, which details the efforts of Alex Stamos, the former Facebook security chief, in 2016 to draw attention to how Russian hackers were using the platform to spread disinformation in the United States, destabilize the government and influence political outcomes. It was a crucial and devastating investigation, but the prevailing sentiment among Facebook executives was “why did you have to dig this up? “

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“The Stamos team had uncovered information that no one, including the US government, had known before. But at Facebook, being proactive was not always appreciated, ”write Kang and Frenkel. “By investigating what Russia was doing, Alex forced us to make decisions about what to say publicly. People weren’t happy with it, ”an executive told the authors. “He had taken it upon himself to discover a problem. It’s never pretty, ”said another.

Ultimately, this book is an indictment against the way some global businesses are run today; from soft aggression which may have replaced the harsh hostility of a previous generation but which is nonetheless just as harmful and toxic, and from uncontrolled and advanced capitalism, which impacts all of humanity in the shrinking world created, ironically, by companies like Facebook.


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