Zuckerberg’s Shade and Why Facebook Now Has The Ick Factor
Do you remember that episode of Friends when Monica gets “The Ick”?
She’s lying in bed with her new boyfriend, Ethan, when he confesses that he lied to her about his age, revealing that he wasn’t actually a senior in college (which was bad enough already because Monica was 26), but a senior in high school. This was all made worse by the fact that Monica had literally just taken Ethan’s virginity after he admitted he’d never had sex. Understandably, Monica gets The Ick.
You know The Ick, right? It’s that unshakeable gut-feeling that emerges when you’re dating someone and suddenly a repulsion to that person appears out of nowhere. All at once, all of the romantic gestures, physical touches and moments of affection that won you over in the early days now induce a shudder. And no matter how hard you try, you just can’t shake it.
That’s how I feel about Mark Zuckerberg and his $400 billion (billion!) Facebook empire. The Ick started simmering in April last year when Zuckerberg was forced to testify in the front of the United States Congress about Facebook’s privacy policies – or lack thereof – and its involvement in the Cambridge Analytica sh*tstorm. Those hearings proved to the public (and to a completely disillusioned Zuckerberg) that without Facebook, Cambridge Analytica wouldn’t have been able to harvest the private information of 87 million people. A few months later things went from bad to worse when it was revealed that not only did the company know about Russia’s efforts to sway American voters in favour of then-candidate Donald Trump by creating hundreds of Facebook accounts designed to circulate damaging misinformation and conspiracy theories about his opponents, but Facebook also made the fateful decision to conceal the problem from the public. Yes, when Facebook engineers discovered suspicious Russia-linked activity during the 2016 election and took their findings to Zuckerberg and C.O.O Sheryl Sandberg, they were told to cover up the evidence because they knew it would implicate the company.
All of that should have been enough of an Ick Factor to illicit a formal breakup with the social media giant, but no! We stuck around. And we became complacent. Because it was all too hard and what would we do without Facebook Messenger and how would we ever remember our friends’ birthdays and what about those Buzzfeed Tasty videos on the homepage?
So now it’s 2019, and in the last two weeks we’ve learnt the following: Facebook has come under fire for a platform policy that allows politicians to lie in their campaign ads (Elizabeth Warren proved just how problematic this policy was by purposefully paying for Facebook ads riddled with lies to see if the platform would remove them – they didn’t). We found out that Zuckerberg has been hosting intimate dinners and “off the record” meetings at his California home with propaganda-spewing conservatives like Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro (who once said that “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage”) to discuss matters of free speech. Because, sure, why not chat about the first amendment with people who get paid to abuse it for a living! And lastly, we’ve had to endure the Ick-inducing speech Zuckerberg gave at Georgetown’s Gaston Hall last week on “the importance of protecting free expression.” You know your business is on the wrong side of history when you need to spend forty minutes reminding everybody that you think freedom of speech is a good thing – something that literally everyone apart from Kim Jong Un agrees on. In a scathing (and pretty funny) article by New York Magazine, his speech was called “embarrassing and nonsensical, a greatest-hits album of the ideological inconsistencies that Facebook relies upon whenever Zuckerberg needs to defend his predatory business model as some type of global charity.” Not only did he blatantly lie about the catalyst for starting Facebook (he rambled on about the war in Iraq when literally the entire world remembers him saying he wanted a web app that allowed Harvard students to rate each others attractiveness), but he also used his speech to defend the Facebook policy which allows politicians to include false information in their campaigns, saying that it is “not the responsibility of a private company to censor politicians or the news.” But that’s not what this is Zuck! This is allowing the people in power (politicians and lawmakers) to lie to their constituents, and allowing your company to profit off those lies.
At some point, somethings gotta give right?
When Zuckerberg was questioned about the Russia scandal last year, he said he didn’t believe social media had any influence on the way people voted, “I don’t think that’s true. I think people vote based on their lived experiences.” But here’s the problem with that statement – our “lived experience” is being decided for us by platforms like Facebook. With more and more people relying on social media to deliver their daily news, it can’t go unacknowledged that Facebook decides what users see when they scroll their Feeds. This is no longer about a data privacy scandal and the way our personal information is used without our knowledge, it’s about how Big Tech is, in fact, shaping our lived experience. Facebook isn’t just changing the way we see the world, it’s deciding which version of the world we see. And with that, The Ick is reaching new heights.