There is power in a line of communication. No arguing with it. And when your communication network encompasses the world and billions of people, that power goes up exponentially. But as Mark Zuckerberg and his board are finding out, there is a lot of truth in the Spiderman line, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
As we contemplate things other than our Facebook feeds today—owing to the extraordinary, hours-long global outage the company is experiencing across its network—we are first struck by the fact that as a company they are being hammered on many fronts.
The first is the extraordinary revelations of the Facebook whistleblower, data scientist Frances Haugen, who went public on 60 Minutes last night.
Facebook fanned the flames of white supremacists and Qanon rumors precisely because the interaction of these people generated revenue for the company. This is of course despicable. The revelations of Frances Haugen lost Mark Zuckerberg an estimated $7 billion today as the Facebook stock dropped almost $17 per share.
Not too smart on Zuck’s part or his staff and executives to pick the low hanging fruit of Neo-Nazi interactions on their platform to profit from. What should they do with all the money made from these interactions and the millions paid to them by Russia’s troll factor for ads taken out to help swing the 2016 and 2020 elections? My opinion is that it should all be donated toward the protection of voting rights, which Facebook has helped greatly to undermine.
To quote Dennis Miller, “I don’t want to go off on a rant here.” No, really, I don’t. I could go on for a long time on the negative factors of Facebook and the damage this company has done. They do have a lot to answer for. But there is more to this.
But let’s take little different view here and examine the other side of the coin. And this is a weird coin because the opposite side of it is not the same size. It is much, much bigger.
The fact is that good and sane people vastly outnumber those that don’t qualify for those labels. The numbers are not even close. If you have ever worked in a job where you met large numbers of people every day, you would find that the vast majority were kind, decent and caring. A few were annoying and an even smaller number were stark raving nuts and desperately trying to hide it.
These are the same population proportions you’ll find on Facebook, Twitter, etc. And those factors of care, empathy, humor and help of this vast population are the real power of Facebook and whether we like it or not is what attracts all the different types to it.
The sane folk want to interact with friends. The not so sane ones are just looking for a way to grind the ax. The crazy one are there literally to prey on everyone else and themselves. And you know what? Facebook actually makes keeping the grinders and the crazies away from you super easy.
You have the power of life and communication that lowlifes want. Apt term, lowlife. They have little or no personal power or capability and derive it by literally stealing it from others.
And it is this great power for which Facebook needs to take their responsibility and where they have really failed. To allow algorithms to make it possible for the lowlifes on the platform to prey on the vast majority of good people is the crime here.
Zuckerberg, the Facebook board of directors, executives and staff all need to come to grips with this. Whether it is a for-profit company or not, in reality Facebook IS a public trust. They have betrayed that trust and need to come to grips as a company with where their loyalties truly lay.
With a population of over 3 billion members, this is no longer an “internet” sphere of responsibility. Facebook needs to own the fact that they have a nearly mankind-wide sphere of influence and rise up the to challenge of managing this in a way to make it safe, safe for the vast majority of their sane, caring and honest users. Screw the rest, not these folks.