Shorts & Briefs | 10 May 2019 | Deconstructing Facebook

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I want to recommend for your current events reading today this rather long read, a New York Times opinion piece as part of their Privacy Project, intended for the Sunday Review by the co-founder of Facebook, Chris Hughes (so insinuated into the fledgling company, when it hadn’t quite started to fly, that his name appears on the patent for NewsFeed—but so unassimilated that he has now been in no way connected to the company for ten years; clearly a close confidante and friend of Zuckerberg, it’s now clear that is no longer the relationship, as Hughes last saw the Z-man in 2017). That this should appear in this form also somewhat tempers the inferences to be made about their personal relationship as he describes it, and Zuckerberg. Though the subject is perfectly serious, it’s clear the problem with deconstructing Facebook is that the task is as complicated as a screwball comedy.

Chris Hughes and Mark Zuckerberg when both were still very young and enrolled at Harvard, where they created Facebook.
The Culprits in 2004 at Harvard. photo credit: Rick Friedman, © New York Times Company.

I only want, personally, to note, in a particular context, the essentially calm and reasoned argument that Hughes makes for the dismantling of Facebook to neutralize the further threat of the monopoly power it continues to accrue, an argument which assesses and demonstrates such power invested in a single person—if we are to believe Hughes, who seems intent on being politic and well-intended at the personal level, a man who is, still, innately human and a good guy. If you know me at all, and have seen what I’ve said, mainly on Facebook, about Mark Zuckerberg, you’ll know the descriptor I use most often is “feckless.”

This may seem not only imprecise, but in fact an erroneously converse characterization. He is anything but what the British slang more deliciously calls “wet,” that is, ineffectual, wishy-washy, and wholly personally irresponsible and blundering. But I have only ever spoken, as Hughes does, to what seems quite clearly to be his character innately. It says nothing about the power and, if anything, great indomitability that the position his machinations have brought him to as an entrepreneur. Just as a tyrant may be, when he is at home, craven, cowardly, and immoral, these qualities do not diminish his power and ascendancy, but are what makes him dangerous in the exercise of that position.

It’s a paradigm we should all be fearful of, given the way of the world, and the prevailing trends not only in business, but in politics and governance, not only in the United States, but internationally.

If you can afford the time for the long read: here’s the link to the Hughes, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/09/opinion/sunday/chris-hughes-facebook-zuckerberg.html

If you don’t have the time, the editorial board of the paper have been so kind as to write Five Takeaways:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/09/opinion/chris-hughes-facebook.html

Obviously, I think it’s important. I hope you do too.

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