Thursday, 13 Dec 2018
Business

Mark Zuckerberg is more ruthless than clueless

In the United Kingdom, lawmakers released Wednesday a plethora of documents on Facebook Inc. that offer intriguing insights into the company – and erase any remaining notion of its CEO as an innocent baby in the woods.

As Nate Lanxon and Sarah Frier write, internal emails show that Facebook uses user data as a "merchandise that can be exploited for business purposes." News agencies had previously leaked some of these details, partly from versions of some of these same documents. But this more comprehensive set of deliberations of the company is being searched to gauge how truthful Facebook is about its business activities and its privacy practices.

The documents constitute a Rorschach test of the readers' opinion of the company. If you are inclined to believe that Facebook is a scourge, evidence corroborates the idea that the company treats the privacy of users as a dirty cloth and abuses its power. (1) The documents also show what almost any society would do to preserve-interest.

For me, the documents shed light on the nature of Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, as a ruthless businessman and savvy strategist. This should not be news for those who followed Facebook's story or watched the "social network", but the documents add color to the less-discussed look of Zuckerberg's character as a tactician deeply involved who seeks to maximize Facebook's earnings and as a hard-working leader. disposed to (metaphorically) competing patellae.

It's not about Mark Zuckerberg, a naive Mayberry who sweats through his hoodie when he's nervous and fondly caresses a cow. That's Mark Zuckerberg as Vito Corleone.

Zuckerberg was intimately involved in 2012 as the company discussed whether and how to generate revenue from mobile gaming and other features that external developers associate with Facebook. In an e-mail discussion with leaders in October and November 2012, he said that Facebook should allow businesses a fairly broad and free access to information about Facebook users. He argued that this decision would encourage developers to create fun things for Facebook users and would in turn force them to share more information on Facebook through the developer application.

"If we do it well, we should be able to release a lot more sharing in the world and on Facebook via a constellation of apps that we could never create experiences for ourselves," he said. Zuckerberg writes. (2)

It was a clever and nuanced tactical argument – not a man who preferred to leave the complicated details of Facebook's business to his lieutenants. And Zuckerberg was right. The approach with application developers has transformed a young, yet unstable Facebook into an essential part of the Internet. The decision to give developers enough leeway to exploit Facebook user information was also behind the scandal this year over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. It was both an intelligent decision and a seed of one of Facebook's endemic problems. But in any case, it's a light-eyed Zuckerberg that triggered the shots.

Lanxon and Frier also describe the striking example of Zuckerberg, the 2013 savvy businessman, when the CEO responded "Yes, go for it," to a request to prevent Twitter's Vine Inc. to attract Facebook's friends to the world. new application for short web video clips. The decision was a serious slowdown for Vine and Twitter, which at the time was considered a significant threat to Facebook. (The co-founder of Vine had some ideas about it.)

Once again, Facebook's Vine block had already been reported. In addition, many episodes of Facebook's desire to copy potentially threatening technologies or hinder competition using the tremendous power of the social network have been reported. But seeing strategies like those discussed in internal emails is much more powerful and highlights Zuckerberg's role in Facebook's ruthlessness. One document states that he personally approved a short list of competing companies subject to stricter restrictions on Facebook's activity.

For some people, this information could reduce their trust in Zuckerberg, which is a fair prospect. For me, the documents simply make Zuckerberg a two-dimensional cartoon character. Let this forever kill the simplistic impression of Zuckerberg as a technical wizard who – as he has repeated many times – created Facebook in his dormitory without understanding why Facebook would become big, nor focus on the information collected by Business would benefit.

People are complex. Nobody is purely Barney Fife, or only the godfather. And we have just taken a valuable look at Zuckerberg's complete complexion as a leader.

A version of this column originally appeared in the Bloomberg Fully Charged Technology Information Bulletin. You can register here.

(1) It is worth mentioning, as Facebook responded in its response, that it was a selective disclosure of a much larger set of internal Facebook documents and emails that were part of a prosecution. against society.

(2) I was surprised that this Facebook debate six years ago did not address the impact of the company's decision on the privacy of users' data. It is possible that Facebook has included confidentiality in its discussions on how to process developer applications, but this has not been reflected in this selection of documents.

To contact the author of this story: Shira Ovide at sovide@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.net

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Shira Ovide is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist specializing in technology. Previously, she was a Wall Street Journal reporter.

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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