“Look, I can accept lies about my job, but I was not riding an electric surfboard, I was moving it with my own legs.” This is how jocular Mark Zuckerberg reacted on September 22 to the, at that time, the latest Facebook scandal: an article in The New York Times that pulled the Project Amplify banner, an attempt to manipulate the social network to show flattering content about Facebook and its projects.
For those of us who follow Facebook news, it is as if two years, and not two weeks, have passed since those statements. It has rained a lot since then and for Zuckerberg, it has been wet. Almost every day, Facebook has starred in a new controversy, when it has not disappeared directly from the Internet. The biggest blow has come from within. Frances Haugen, who was part of Facebook’s anti-disinformation team, posted internal documents through the Wall Street Journal; in them, practically all the conspiracy theories that have surrounded the company were confirmed .
That Facebook knows that Instagram does more harm than good to teenage girls with suicidal thoughts and eating disorders. That European politicians are creating more aggressive and negative ads because they are the only ones receiving attention on the social network . And that Facebook could solve everything and create a more friendly and secure social network, but that it decides not to because it would affect its advertising revenue. All the conclusions, with the seal of the researchers of Facebook itself.
They are silver bullets for legislators who have been looking for ammunition against Big Tech and Facebook in particular for a while; Not surprisingly, Haugen has already presented testimony before a US Congress that it is still kept for Zuckerberg for his last appearance. The CEO’s response has been to repeat the words of his former employee, preceding them with “Isn’t it true that ??”. Not a joke, not a touch of irony.
He knows there is too much gambling this time, far more than the $ 5 billion, just 0.6% of the value of Facebook at the time, which he had to pay for allowing Cambridge Analytica to collect data from millions of people without his permission.
It doesn’t help either that now everyone wants to write a book about Facebook. The latest to come to Spain, Manipulated: Facebook’s battle for world domination, has been written by two journalists from The New York Times, based on 400 interviews with legislators, investors and yes, Facebook employees. Everything, to demonstrate that after Cambridge Analytica, the assault on the US Capitol and the constant scandals there is no clumsiness, but very measured and concrete decisions for the benefit of the company. “Facebook has a conflict of interest between what is good for the public, and what is good for Facebook,” in Haugen’s words.
And then there was darkness. Last Monday, October 4, all Facebook services suddenly disappeared from the Internet , and many discovered what they depend on. Without WhatsApp, families and friends turned to SMS, for the first time in years, to send each other messages. Without Facebook, Twitter was filled with messages seeking breaking news about the blackout. And without Instagram, many preferred to completely disconnect. It was the golden opportunity for alternatives, like Telegram, which gained 70 million users without doing anything.
Despite the rumors of a hacker attack, or a top secret operation to recover the servers, in the end it was the same as always: a small configuration failure that caused the servers to be inaccessible , although they worked perfectly. Six hours later, Facebook returned, but not the jokes of Zuckerberg, who since that September 22 has returned to a much more serious and robotic tone in his publications.
Based on a meticulous investigation and after having interviewed legislators, investors, academics, executives and employees of the Silicon Valley giant , Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, two renowned journalists from The New York Times, delve into the ins and outs of a company surrounded always highly secretive and whose culture demands blind loyalty, revealing the hidden operations and power struggles of the social network par excellence.