Billionaires Behaving Badly

Scott Galloway again in fine form:

They [Mr. Zuckerberg or Ms. Sandberg] wrap themselves in First-Amendment or “we want to give voice to the unheard” blankets, yet there’s nothing in either of their backgrounds that hints at a passion for First Amendment rights. Zuck’s robotic repetition that their “mission is to connect the world” at the congressional hearings in May was an appeal to pathos that flies in the face of abundant research of the human propensity towards division, tribalism, and violence. Getting a Facebook account doesn’t magically melt users’ hatred for groups they are convinced are inferior. Instead, outrage spreads faster than love. And that’s the goal: more clicks. Reactions equal engagement — a model Facebook could change.

As it is, Facebook doesn’t remove fake news (they call them “false news”). Fake news still spreads, just to fewer people. (No one knows what “fewer people” means, in percentages, ratios, or numbers.) So Infowars claimed to its 900,000 followers that Dems were going to start a second Civil War on the 4th of July. That wasn’t seen as inciting violence, and it wasn’t removed — neither for inciting violence nor for being “false news.” Unclear if it was “shown to fewer people.” Neither, apparently, was Pizzagate seen as inciting violence, though it involved real-live violence. Facebook has turned to their playbook of delay and obfuscation, and refuses to cool the echo chambers of misinformation, as it profits from them.

It would be nice to believe that the third-wealthiest person in the world and an executive who’s written eloquently about work-life balance for women and personal loss would have more concern for the commonwealth, and society writ large. But they have not demonstrated this. Their defensiveness is dangerous blather crafted by the army of PR execs at Facebook. To be fair, they’re no better or worse than tobacco executives claiming, “Tobacco is not addictive” or search execs professing, “Information wants to be free.” They have all lied to buttress their wealth, full stop. This is an externality of capitalism that’s usually addressed with regulation. Usually.

This will continue to happen unless we, American citizens, elect people who have the domain expertise and stones to hold big tech to the same scrutiny we apply to other firms. We don’t even need new regulation to break them up, but just to enforce the current regulations on media firms.

Which. They. Are.