Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

What Does It Mean for Facebook to Be at War?

Maya Kosoff, Vanity Fair:

The episode is revealing in that it suggests Zuckerberg still thinks Facebook’s core issue is a communications problem, rather than a substantive one. He’s seemed contrite in press calls and before lawmakers, professing to understand Facebook’s shortcomings as a product. But internally, his response to criticism is more self-righteous. During a Q&A session with employees last week, for example, Zuckerberg reportedly called recent negative coverage “bullshit.” He also reportedly blamed C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg and her team for the “hysteria” that accompanied the revelation that millions of users’ personal data had been siphoned by Mercer-backed firm Cambridge Analytica, complaining that Facebook “wasn’t effectively managing the response.” (A person familiar with Zuckerberg’s thinking told the Journal that he does not recall using the word “hysteria.”) And he’s been frustrated at Facebook’s response to criticism over the past year, pressuring senior executives to “make progress faster” on issues like securing Facebook’s platform and reversing slow user growth. (In a statement to the Journal, a Facebook spokesperson said the company has “made massive investments in safety and security. While we know we have more work to do, we believe we’ve made progress.”)

Facebook’s executive team appears to view negative press coverage of the company as an affront — as though the media is the enemy — instead of recognizing these stories as the product of a decade-long series of decisions they have made. If Facebook were a country, it would be by far the most populous on the planet, but also among the least-accountable and most poorly-governed.

The worst part of the press’ coverage of Facebook’s faults is not that it is harsh, unfair, or critical. It is that it took until recently for Facebook and its peers to be seen as having the potential to be catastrophically destructive. It has now proven its power by not being willing to face its consequences.