Mark Zuckerberg still thinks we’re all “dumb fucks.”
This indisputable fact was once again ground into our skulls Thursday morning when the CEO of the toxic cesspool otherwise known as Facebook waxed semi-philosophic on free speech at Georgetown University. Amidst the tired and expected Reddit-logic-bro-like ramblings, one moment stood out for its sheer audacity: Zuckerberg’s attempt to forcefully rewrite the history of his company’s founding.
And he’s clearly counting on us buying the lie.
Facebook, Zuckerberg insisted, was born out of the noblest of impulses to give “everyone a voice” in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Yes, you read that correctly.
Before we get into just how extremely bullshit we know this claim to be, it’s worth reading it in its stupefying entirety.
When I was in college, our country had just gone to war in Iraq. The mood on campus was disbelief. It felt like we were acting without hearing a lot of important perspectives. The toll on soldiers, families and our national psyche was severe, and most of us felt powerless to stop it. I remember feeling that if more people had a voice to share their experiences, maybe things would have gone differently. Those early years shaped my belief that giving everyone a voice empowers the powerless and pushes society to be better over time.
Back then, I was building an early version of Facebook for my community, and I got to see my beliefs play out at smaller scale.
Got that? Zuckerberg is implying Facebook was a manifestation of his belief that giving people a voice would make the world a better place. Except we know that isn’t true.
Like, not even remotely.
Facebook’s origin story is an incredibly well documented — if messy — one, and, unfortunately for the CEO, it paints him in a rather unflattering light.
For those blissfully unaware, the development of TheFacebook followed on Zuckerberg’s creation of a “Hot or Not” clone called Facemash, which scraped Harvard students’ photos from an online directory and then asked students to rank the respective hotness of those pictured.
Contemporaneous reporting by Harvard’s student newspaper, the Crimson, laid it all out in clear detail.
“The site was created entirely by Zuckerberg over the last week in October, after a friend gave him the idea,” reads the 2003 article. “The website used photos compiled from the online facebooks of nine Houses, placing two next to each other at a time and asking users to choose the ‘hotter’ person.”
Now, Zuckerberg has repeatedly insisted that Facemash was totally separate from Facebook.
“The claim that Facemash was somehow connected to the development of Facebook… it isn’t, it wasn’t,” he told Congress in 2018.
If we are to believe that claim, which is itself dubious, then we are still left with scores of records showing that Zuckerberg made Facebook with dating services in mind.
“Like,” Business Insider reports Zuckerberg as writing to his friend Adam D’Angelo just before the launch of TheFacebook.com, “I don’t think people would sign up for the facebook thing if they knew it was for dating.”
Of his notorious decision to delay working on a competitor’s social network dubbed Harvard Connection so that he could get TheFacebook up in time?
“I’m going to fuck them,” Business Insider reports him as telling a friend.
Even Zuckerberg himself has, in the past, provided a sanitized retelling of his justification for launching Facebook that had nothing to do with the lofty claims he made today.
“Ten years ago,” CNBC reports him as telling Freakonomics Radio in 2018, “you know, I was just trying to help connect people at colleges and a few schools.”
Now, there is itself nothing wrong with launching a dating or social website. However, when that site morphs into the democracy-eating beast that is the present-day Facebook, understanding how and why that transition happened is of some pretty serious import.
Self mythologizing your company’s origin story to make yourself into a T-shirt-sporting statesman, and assuming we’re all dumb enough to lap up those lies reflects an ongoing desire on the part of Zuckerberg to bend reality to his will.
For a man with such unparalleled power over both our elections and personal information, that should bother all of us. Unless, of course, us “fucks” are too dumb to notice.
Not surprisingly, American billionaires have dismissed recent wealth-tax proposals as an affront to the entrepreneurial spirit to which they attribute their massive wealth. But the ultra-rich never would have their great wealth without legal subsidies from the state and reliable enforcement by the courts.
NEW YORK – Economic inequality has moved to the top of the political agenda in many countries, including free-market poster children like the United States and the United Kingdom. The issue is mobilizing the left and causing headaches on the right, where wealth has long been viewed as worthy of celebration, not as demanding justification.
But today’s concentrations of wealth do demand justification. In 2018, Forbes listed three billionaires among its top ten most powerful people in the world. Next to the heads of states of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one finds not only the Pope, but also Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Google co-founder Larry Page. All three owe their power not to public position or spiritual influence but to private wealth.
As contenders in the Democratic primary for the 2020 US presidential election, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have promised to impose new taxes on the super-wealthy. Warren’s wealth-tax proposal – a levy of 2% on every dollar of net worth above $50 million, rising to 6% for fortunes greater than $1 billion – has ruffled billionaires’ feathers. According to Gates, he has paid more in taxes than almost anybody – some $10 billion. And while he would consider it “fine” if that figure had been doubled to $20 billion, he believes a much higher tax would threaten the incentive system that led him (and others) to invest in the first place.
For his part, Michael Bloomberg, the founder of the Bloomberg news empire, a former mayor of New York City, and now a Democratic presidential contender himself, argues that a wealth tax might be unconstitutional, and that it would turn the US into the likes of Venezuela. And not to be outdone, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has suggested that taxing billionaires’ wealth would lead to worse outcomes than leaving it where it is, implying that the ultra-wealthy know better than the peoples’ elected representatives how tax revenues should be spent.
Note the sense of entitlement underlying each of these reactions. Each man’s billions, we are told, belong to him; he earned the money and should therefore get to decide how to spend it, be it on philanthropic projects, taxes, or neither. The billionaires tell us that they are willing to pay a fair share of taxes, but that there is some undefined threshold where the incentives to innovate and invest will be thrown into reverse. At that point, apparently, the ultra-wealthy will go on strike, leaving the rest of us worse off.
But this perspective ignores the fact that accumulated wealth is largely a product of law, and by implication of the state and the people who constitute it. As economist Thomas Piketty demonstrates in his 2014 book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the rich today hold most of their wealth in financial assets, which are simply legally protected promises to receive future cash flows. Take away legal enforceability, and all that remains is hope, not a secure asset.
Moreover, the private empires over which today’s billionaires preside are organized as legally chartered corporations, which makes them creatures of the law, not of nature. The corporate form shields the personal wealth of the founders and other shareholders from the corporation’s creditors. It also facilitates the diversification of risk within a company, by allowing discrete pools of assets to be created, each with its own set of creditors who are barred from making claims on another asset pool, even though the parent company’s management controls all of them.
Further, the company’s own shares can be used as currency when acquiring other companies. When Facebook bought WhatsApp, it covered $12 billion of the $16 billion purchase price with its own shares, paying only $4 billion in cash. And, as with Facebook, corporate law can be used to cement control by founders and their affiliates through dual-class share structures that grant them more votes than everyone else. As such, they need not fear elections or takeovers of any kind.
Finally, companies whose assets take the form of intellectual property (IP) and other intangibles tend to rely even more on the helping hand of the law. As of 2018, 84% of the market capitalization of the S&P 500 was held in such intangible assets. It takes a legal intervention to turn ideas, skills, and knowhow – which are free to be shared by anybody – into exclusive property rights that are enforced by the full power of the state. And in recent years, Microsoft and other US tech companies have boosted their earning power significantly by promoting US-style IP rules around the world through the World Trade Organization’s body for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
To be sure, there are good reasons for states to adopt laws that empower private agents to reap the rewards of organizing businesses and developing new products and services. But let’s call a spade a spade and a (legal) subsidy a subsidy. While Bezos, Bloomberg, Gates, and Zuckerberg may well be savvy entrepreneurs, they also have benefited on a massive scale from the helping hand of legislatures and courts around the world. This hand is more contingent than the invisible one immortalized by Adam Smith, because its vitality depends on a widely shared belief in the rule of law. The erosion of that belief, not a tax, poses the greatest threat to billionaires’ wealth.
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no no I understand that but guys what
I’m afraid of is if you take that
argument to its logical extreme all
you’re gonna do is go back to the
establishment media so you’re gonna put
in so many guardrails that we’re gonna
go back to the era of acceptable thought
The Silicon Six:
- Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook
- Larry Page: Alphabet
- Sergey Brin: Alphabel
- Sundar Pichai: Google
- Susan Wojcicki: YouTube
- Jack Dorsey: Twitter
Facebook Zuckerberg tried to portray
this whole issue as choices around free
expression that is ludicrous this is not
about limiting anyone’s free speech this
is about giving people including some of
the most reprehensible people on earth
the biggest platform in history to reach
a third of the planet freedom of speech
is not freedom of reach Mark Zuckerberg
seemed to equate regulation of companies
like his to the actions of the most
repressive societies incredible this
from one of the six people who decide
what information so much of the world
Zuka burger t’set facebook sundar pichai
at google at its parent company alphabet
Larry Page and Sergey Brin Bryn’s
ex-sister-in-law Susan Wojcicki at
YouTube and Jack Dorsey at Twitter the
silicon six all billionaires all
Americans who care more about boosting
their share price than about protecting
democracy this this is ideological
imperialism six unelected individuals in
Silicon Valley imposing their vision on
the rest of the world unaccountable to
any government and acting like their
Abarth of the reach of law it’s like
02:55attempting to interfere but I hope willalso give us some confidence that oursystems are now more sophisticated toproactively identify and address thesethings on your question about politicalads I look from a business perspectivethe very small percent of our businessthat is made up of political ads doesnot come anywhere close to justifyingthe controversy that this incurs for ourcompany so this really is not aboutmoneythis is unprincipled in giving people avoice I believe that ads can be animportant part of voice I thinkespecially in the political process forchallenger candidates and for localcandidates or advocacy groups whosemessage might not otherwise be coveredby the media having ads can be animportant way to inject your messageinto the Internet me interrupt you for aminute are you telling me I think as shesaid to me before you plan on doing nofact-checking on political adschairwoman our policy is that we do notfact check politicians speech and thereason for that is that we believe thatin a democracy it is important thatpeople can see for themselves whatpoliticians are saying political speechis some of the most scrutinized speechalready in the world to in fact check onany ads at all up yesdescribe what you fact check on oh sureactually thank you for the opportunityto clarify Facebook itself actually doesnot check it does not fact check what wedo is we have feedback that people inour community don’t want to see viralhoaxes or or kind of like that maybeclear you do no fact-checkingon any ads is that correct chairwomanwhat we do is we work with a set ofindependent fact checkers who somebodyfact checks on ads you have you contractwith someone to do that is that rightchairwoman yes and tell me who is itthat they bag checked on a chairwomanwhat we do is when content is getting alot of distribution and is flagged bymembers of our community or by ourTechnical Systems it can go into a queueto be reviewed by a set of independentfact checkersthey can’t fact check everything but thethings that they get to and if they partsomething is false then we all right mytime has expiredand someone else will continue on thisline of questioning
It’s ok to buy ads on Facebook where you lie, so long as you are a prominent politician.
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