I grew up in a strict home and can recall my mother repeating several times throughout my childhood: “If you lie you’ll cheat. If you’ll cheat you’ll steal.” My mother did not have patience for even the hint of dishonesty. She believed that lying was telling of a person’s character. My mother ran a tight ship, and she was keen on knowing everything that went on under her roof. By many accounts, Mark Zuckerberg has run Facebook the same way. Yet publicly, Mr. Zuckerberg seems to favor the childish rhetoric of “I don't know” when it comes to accounting for the activities at his company. Maybe my mom was right after all. Zuckerberg has been publicly accused of lying, cheating and stealing, but we live in a world that celebrates people for bad behavior. We acquiesce that as long as someone has become financially successful or built something large, it’s okay to disregard the means by which they have achieved such acts.
Facebook has had some very public challenges. Mark Zuckerberg was accused of stealing the idea for Facebook from his Harvard classmates, and was later accused of cheating the founding members. Facebook’s IPO raised regulatory concerns and left investors feeling deceived. After the election, Facebook was accused of aiding the attack on our electoral process. Its virtual reality unit, Oculus, and other defendants were ordered by a Texas jury to pay a combined $500 million to ZeniMax Media Inc, a video game publisher that says Oculus stole its technology, according to Bloomberg. Now, Facebook is accused of essentially being used as a digital weapon of mass destruction. Cambridge Analytica is accused of nefariously mining the data of 50 million users (that we know of) for political gain. Yet, Mr. Zuckerberg has professed not to know what was going on under Facebook’s roof?
“The fish rots from the head down.” The head of Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg, but what kind of leader only shows up and takes responsibility for the successes? When the media celebrates Facebook, they tout the leadership of Zuckerberg. “Betting on Facebook is betting on Zuckerberg” (Business Insider). But where was Zuckerberg’s hands on approach when hackers were mining our data, cloning our accounts and messing with our elections? Where was Zuckerberg when Congress called Facebook to testify about the hacking? Where was Zuckerberg at his company’s all-hands-on-deck meeting? Where is the responsible face of facebook, and why isn't he taking responsibility? Congress may call hearings and late-night talk show hosts may take Zuckerberg to task, but Americans have learned not to expect much more than a slap on the wrist.
We are a nation that spends billions fighting terrorism abroad and crime locally. We tout our successes in the “War on Terror” and the decrease in crime domestically while simultaneously forgiving the transgressions of white collar criminals. When the banks were facing failure of their own making, the American public bailed them out because they were “too big to fail.” When the American people were informed of Equifax’s known breaches, and the lawsuits started pouring in, Congress passed a law forbidding individuals from suing them. And although Facebook first learned about this breach in 2015, the same year it’s stock rose approximately 35 percent, this American expects very little to be done. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has shown me that this nation is more concerned about black and brown bodies with marijuana, and with women and trans bodies, than it is with the mass incarceration, exploitation, and silencing of its citizens.
I think it’s time for us, the people, to acknowledge the cyber elephant in the room. Facebook may be a behemoth, but as Malcolm Gladwell reminds us, “Giants lose because they can’t see. They are so big and strong and powerful that they lose the ability to properly appreciate the world around them.” Big businesses like Facebook and the criminal justice system have turned a blind eye to the people and fixed their sights on profits. I submit that it will be up to the people to call Facebook to account. And if Facebook remains faceless, the people will be forced to “unfriend” the platform.