Mark Zuckerberg is in a crisis of leadership. Will he grasp its opportunity?
It seems like an eternity, but about one year ago this Fall, Uber had kicked its iconic founding CEO to the curb, and he responded by attempting a board room coup. Meanwhile, Facebook was at least a year into crisis mode, clumsily dealing with a spreading contagion that culminated in a Yom Kippur apology from CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better,” he posted. “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask for forgiveness and I will work to do better.”
More than one year after that work reputedly began, what lesson from Facebook’s still rolling catastrophe? I think it’s pretty clear: Mark Zuckerberg needs to do a lot more than publish blog posts someone else has written for him.
If Twitter’s countermeasures fail in the run up to the mid-term election, they should prepare a nuclear option.
Russian intelligence distorted the democratic process of the 2016 Presidential Election by manipulating social media, and perhaps more. A tech backlash is in full swing, where the power of unintended and intended (ads) consequences wielded by platforms will be curbed. The management of these platforms has failed to self-regulate to date.
Twitter’s countermeasures have reduced the number of bot fakesters, and it does feel like there is less toxicity in the personalized feed. But in this information war there will always be new attack vectors on the attention and divisive outrage of the electorate. The same hacks are already happening to ready disinformation dumps.
Boards are the most lasting and important avenue to the real change we need in capitalism. So let’s make them better.
The Information is a subscriber only publication, so I don’t often link to it here. However, its package today (this link is open if you share your email) on private company boards is fundamentally important, and offers key insights into the state of our most vaunted business fantasy: That of the tech-driven startup on the verge of a world-beating IPO.
Regular readers (well, OK, yesterday’s readers) will recall that I recently wrote about Etsy, which was pilloried over the weekend by a Times profile that laid out a too-neat narrative about a fanciful “do-gooder” company forced to heel by the unforgiving demands of short-term Wall Street investors. My point in yesterday’s column was that it was far better to see Etsy chart its own course through those perilous waters than to capitulate fully and become a forgotten footnote of the tech oligarchy. The fact that the company managed to remain independent — even if it had to reform some of its more celebrated attributes — is a testament to its board. And if you look at that board, you will see a lot of diversity — plenty of independents, a strong governance philosophy, and a healthy percentage of women.