A book recently published in the United States manages to compound the pessimism of those who see Facebook as a global threat to democracy. “An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination” was written by two award-winning New York Times reporters, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang.
This is not the first X-ray of the company founded by Mark Zuckerberg, which, with nearly 3 billion users, has just been valued at 1,000 billion dollars. But the book is based on an unprecedented amount of testimony from current and former Facebook employees.
The result is an accurate account of the calculated choices made by Zuckerberg and his senior executives. On the cover, Zuckerberg’s face appears in close-up, and the back cover is occupied by the face of COO Sheryl Sandberg, flanked by a list of apologies they both made between 2006. and 2020.
The lack of sincerity or regret for wrongdoing, ranging from violations of privacy to complicity in interference with the elections, to the dissemination of disinformation during the pandemic, is proven by the facts recounted in the book. .
The authors focus on the period between 2016, when the platform was instrumental in electing Donald Trump, until January of this year, when the former president was banned from all social media after inciting to the violent invasion of the Capitol on January 6. .
There’s a lot to digest, and the book should be required reading for lawmakers in any country grappling with the dilemmas of regulating the digital ecosystem. The book confirms a rumor that Facebook has repeatedly denied before, that it hid from the public what it learned about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Then the director of security Alex Stamos had prepared an entire section on the activity of Russian Kremlin-funded hackers for the official document. But the word “Russia” does not even appear in the final version.
The platform had been used to distribute material that hackers had obtained illegally to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and Zuckerberg preferred to lie to avoid angering Trump and the Republicans who denounced Silicon Valley in favor of the Democratic candidate. .
“Business over the country” was the mantra he repeated to employees in Facebook’s early years. January 6 cornered Zuckerberg, whose impunity for contributing to ethnic cleansing and massacres in other countries of the world, such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar, failed to give Washington the attention it deserved.
When Twitter took the initiative to ban Trump forever after the Capitol invasion, Facebook mimicked the move with its usual hypocrisy. He first temporarily excluded Trump, then delegated the decision to an outside committee, which returned the ball to Zuckerberg, who extended Trump’s exile until June 2023, as it continued to pose a “risk to public safety “.
But threatening public safety and inciting violence is Facebook’s business model. The authors of the book document how employees alerted the company that their algorithms are making extreme content go viral. Zuckerberg and Sandberg have never agreed to review their growth at all costs and their strategy of domination.
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