Zuckerberg Prepares For His Close Up


The Facebook CEO will testify in front of both the Senate and the House next week. Will it be memorable — or simply more of the same?


April 10 and 11, 2018 will likely create the kinds of memories for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that his own platform will remind him of for years to come. My guess is he’ll pass on the opportunity to “relive” those memories, or share them with his millions of followers. The whole thing will likely just be too painful to recount.

Then again, Zuckerberg’s testimony next week in front of a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, could prove to be the highlight of his already storied career. No matter what, it’s a historic moment — the world’s largest and most celebrated social media company, in the throes of an existential crisis driven by allegations of massive election fraud, being called to account by the world’s most powerful government, victim of samesaid fraud. It’s going to be riveting.

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Winner Take All Platforms Won’t Necessarily Win


How blockchain, backlash, and breaches may challenge conventional wisdom and reshape your industry

The Official Future Hits Some Speed Bumps

Ask anyone in any major sector of the economy about the future of their industry and the majority will say something like the following:

  • Our industry will be transformed by platforms
  • These platforms will extract the most value from our industry and determine the winners and losers
  • The most likely platform overlords will be the native digital tech giants: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple (or Alibaba and Tencent depending on where you live)

Essentially, what people are saying is that the notion of digital platform dominance is inevitable. In an Accenture survey in 2016, 81 percent of executives said platform based business will be core to their growth strategy within three years. As such, to understand where platforms are going is to understand the future of your industry itself. Either you will be that player (hard for most) or need to find a place to play and win within their ecosystem.

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The Three Horsemen of Facebook’s Datapocalypse


Photo by Jamie Kern on Unsplash (modified).

Market dominance, the business model, and internal culture: Mark should learn from Microsoft.

I’ve written extensively about Facebook in Exponential View for the past three years. (In fact, you can see everything I’ve written about Facebook at this link).

Nearly two years ago (EV#60), I wrote:

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Zuck Ducks the Tough Questions


Money Quote Thursday March 22

The Facebook CEO finally spoke, but did he say anything new?

Of this, I am certain.

And….scene. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence by posting a longer than one page response on his Facebook page (that link is to COO Sheryl Sandberg’s post, so you have both), then granting several major media outlets 20 or so minutes of his time for a largely similar set of interviews. He started with a CNN interview where he apologized directly. Then he took to three publications for lengthier interviews. As you might expect, the media outlets each took a slightly different angle. Honestly, after reading them all, the whole thing felt too orchestrated and calorie free. Zuck did apologize, sort of, but he failed to do the one thing I think is most important: Admit the problem is bigger than his company’s ability to fix, ask for help, and commit to leading the charge on the larger issues at play here.

Oh, and I did try to watch the CNN interview online, but I’m not going to link to it here. Why? Because CNN made simply indefensible decision to cut his interview into minute-long soundbites, separated by as many forced ad breaks as humanly possible. That almost guarantees no one will actually view the entire interview. If ever there was an ironic proof of how Facebook is killing media outlets and damaging the concept of an informed electorate, well, there you have it.

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We Allowed This to Happen. We’re Sorry. We Need Your Help.


What Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should say next.

Iconic companies can fail (Wired cover at left, 1997, while I was managing editor, and this month at right). And iconic companies can recover. It all depends on leadership.

As I write this, I am certain of one thing: A tense and cortisol-fueled war room has convened inside Facebook headquarters, with communications, policy, and operational executives madly preparing a script soon to be read by the company’s beleaguered CEO. At some point during the scrum, some of the execs had to leave to host a company-wide all hands, but to those in the room, that was a distraction. The all hands had to happen because the natives were restless (more on that in my next piece). But at present, Facebook is in chaos, and the leadership team has no idea what the company response should truly be. So there was no way the two faces of the company — Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg — were going to be at the all hands meeting. Not a chance.

By the time I’ve finished writing this column, and certainly by the morning, we’ll finally hear from Zuckerberg on the “category five hurricane” that has hit the company over the weekend. But given the national news has already led with the story, I doubt it. More likely it’ll happen Wednesday. If it doesn’t, well, that’s another column.

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(Digital) World in Crisis: Five Must-Read Pieces Chosen by Zeynep Tufekci


Photo by mahdis mousavi on Unsplash

I was honored to have Zeynep Tufekci, a technosociologist whose work I find crucial in helping us understand public discourse in the digital age, take a lead at guest-curating my newsletter this week.

Here are some of the articles Zeynep shared in her Exponential View:

1. Useful in thinking about the near future of Bitcoin, and the crisis coming their way.

This essay depicts the story of the internet we imagined, and the internet in its reality. It is a worthy lesson for the future of crypto technologies.

Why the Hidden Internet Can’t be a Libertarian Paradise

2. Hackers and mischief makers are coming for machine learning.

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The Reality of Twitter Puffery. Or Why Does Everyone Now Hate Bots?


Flickr: Rosa Mendoza

A friend of mine worked for an online dating company whose audience was predominantly hetero 30-somethings. At some point, they realized that a large number of the “female” accounts were actually bait for porn sites and 1–900 numbers. I don’t remember if users complained or if they found it themselves, but they concluded that they needed to get rid of these fake profiles. So they did.

And then their numbers started dropping. And dropping. And dropping.

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The Techlash Gains Momentum


Is society finally getting serious about its algorithm problems?

Founders and advisors to the Center for Humane Technology

Keep me honest here — am I over-indexing on the Tech Gets Its Comeuppance story, or simply reflecting reality? I’m starting to wonder. But once again a review of the past few days of business news is dominated by the techlash. Yes, I could have filled this column with stories about the stock market, but truth be told, it feels appropriate that we let some air out of the Wall Street “melt up.”

I’ll admit I’m fascinated by society’s response to technology’s moment of scrutiny. It’s happening in real time, and not just in the worlds of Facebook and Google. Here are a few of the most interesting stories since last Friday:

Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built

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Democracy Declines Again


Money Quote January 31, 2018

Facebook, Apple stock ride sidecar, Amazon soars on health news

Once again the scholars of democracy are displeased with its march, or perhaps we should say its retreat. Last time we reported on this trend, it was the Freedom House sounding the alarm. Today it’s the Economist. Just five percent of the world lives in a “full democracy” and no, the US ain’t included. We live in a “flawed democracy” and honestly, I am starting to wonder if that’s just a bit too charitable. MQ: “The index, which comprises 60 indicators across five broad categories — electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties — concludes that less than 5% of the world’s population currently lives in a “full democracy”.”

We’ll be discussing the decline of democracy with world leaders, governors, mayors, and policy experts, as well as the head of Facebook News Feed and the General Counsel of Google at the Shift Forum next month. Join us!

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Is This the Society We Really Want?


Technology’s march is taken as gospel. But if we’ve learned anything from the past year, it’s that Valley giants often miss key human externalities. Case in point: Amazon Go.

Sorry dude. Amazon’s gonna stock the veggies from now on.

So Amazon Go launched this week, and the rush to praise the “store without cashiers” as the future of retail was immediate and sustained. I found Ben Thompson’s considered take representative of the bunch:

For decades technology helped the industrial world work better; more and more, technology is replacing that world completely, and there will be pain. That, though, is precisely why it is worth remembering that the world is not static: to replace humans is, in the long run, to free humans to create entirely new needs and means to satisfy those needs. It’s what we do, and the faith to believe it will happen again will be the best guide in figuring out how.

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