Zuckerberg’s Theory

As far as the art of understatement is concerned, this is roughly on a par with “the safety precautions on the Titanic were not entirely optimal” or “Beethoven is currently in poor health”. But Mark Zuckerberg really outdit himself  this week: “We don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services.” There are people who put it differently.

The way VentureBeat chooses to put it for example is: “Zuckerberg has apparently come down off the mountain his company built out of fake news, harassment, genocide, and privacy scandals to announce that he has gotten religion on privacy.”

“Lack of integrity”

David Kirkpatrick (“The Facebook Effect”) quoted Zuckerberg in 2010: “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” – “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity,” ”

Zuckerberg was in his mid-twenties, and his own idea of the world and his fellow human beings may have not fully matured yet. Even if He’d studied psychology at Harvard.

“The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” by the social psychologist and sociologist Erving Goffman, published in 1956, is considered one of the most important sociological works of the 20th century. Goffman formulates the thesis that human interactions are basically performances for an audience. The book has been published in other countries under the title “We all play theater”. The roles we take depend on the situation and the audience. If something goes wrong, it will be embarrassing – or funny. American sitcom writers have been filling entire series with role shifts.

The fact that it could be possible and desirable to be as immutable as possible is a reality. Cue the massive count of influencers who are paid so that they consume “authentic” products on Instagram . Zuckerberg probably just did not get to deal with the literature. He was busy conducting the largest uncontrolled sociotechnical experiment in world history.

Move fast and break things.

It is absolutely fine for young men to be working out their identity structure and their societal entrapment. Not so much when their improvised theories about human nature become the basis of design decisions that affect hundreds of millions of people. Everyone who met Mark Zuckerberg back in 2008 thought he seemed nice, cheerful, ambitious, and genuinely convinced of the idea that all the sharing would automatically make things better.

Two years later, IBM employee Matt McKeon released a much-cited graphic titled “The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook .” It shows which aspects of a Facebook profile-posts, photos, contact information, date of birth, friends list, and so on-were publicly shown by default up to 2010. Blue areas in the graph represent public information. Now almost the entire graph should be a solid facebook blue.

These design decisions had two immediate consequences, from Washington to Myanmar today:
-The availability of private information, inclinations, interests, and sorting algorithms all allowed for all the targeting, all the communicative fragmentation and radicalization of recent years.
-The illusion of the ‘authentic’ facilitated propaganda, disinformation, and manipulation.

However, Zuckerberg’s 2010 theory must have been deeply rooted in the corporate culture. There is no other explanation for the continuing monstrosities that Facebook continues to make. For example, the recent controversy following the abuse of a security mechanism requesting users phone numbers for completely different purposes.

Intimate! Private!

And then Zuckerberg follows with, “For a service to feel private, there must never be any doubt about who you are communicating with. We’ve worked hard to build privacy into all our products, including those for public sharing. But one great property of messaging services is that even as your contacts list grows, your individual threads and groups remain private. As your friends evolve over time, messaging services evolve gracefully and remain intimate.”

Intimate.. Private.. What you’re reading here is Zuckerberg explaining that the Facebook experiment, in which two billion people participate at the moment, has failed.

If he were serious, Facebook would have to shut down in its present form. But of course that’s not possible, after all, we’re dealing with one of the most valuable public companies in the world. But how should Facebook continue to make money if it no longer primarily wants to absorb , portion out and resell the attention of its most transparent users?

Zuckerberg says that for now, following the model of the WhatsApp service purchased in 2014, they want to “focus on the most basic and private application scenario”, namely private messages. With additional features, “including calls, video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payment services, commerce and in the end a platform for many other types of private services.”

This company already exists – if you omit the term “private”. By the end of 2018, it already had over a billion users and is called WeChat. Through WeChat’s smartphone payment service alone, transactions amounting to several trillion – not a typo – are handled annually.

In other words, and this may be the actual background of the Zuckerberg Manifesto: The most successful social media innovations are no longer coming from Silicon Valley – but from China. And that’s another cause for concern .

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