Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe


Jan 24, 2019
From the New York Times: NONFICTION
An Anti-Facebook Manifesto, by an Early Facebook Investor

The story of Facebook has been told many times before, but McNamee does a superb job of contextualizing its rise within the proper technological history. Without the advents of the iPhone, cloud data storage and the industry’s “lean start-up” model, Facebook may well have wandered down the bleak path of the short-lived early-2000s social media entities Myspace and Friendster. McNamee also takes care to remind the reader of the telltale heart (or lack thereof) beating beneath the floorboards of Facebook headquarters: Its first iteration, Facemash, invited Harvard students to compare photos of female classmates — photos Zuckerberg stole from online student housing directories — for the high cause of determining who was hotter. Yes, the world’s fourth most valuable company can trace its origins to the frustrated misogyny of an ur-incel. The moral vacuousness Zuckerberg displayed as a young adult should have told us something about how he and many other young “disrupters” intended to operate. As McNamee writes, “You can imagine how attractive a philosophy that absolves practitioners of responsibility for the impact of their actions on others would be to entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley.”