Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 Resolution: Focus on Facebook (Huh?)

Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 Resolution: Focus on Facebook (Huh?)

In case you missed it, in his annual address/personal challenge of the year, Mark Zuckerberg committed to “focus(ing) on fixing… important issues. We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we’re successful this year then we’ll end 2018 on a much better trajectory.”

His past personal challenges have included “visit(ing) every US state, run(ning) 365 miles… and learn(ing) Mandarin.”

What may have contributed in no small part to Zuck’s ‘revelation’ was that, according to a recent poll conducted by CB Insights, at 59%, Facebook is the least trusted of the platforms, including Google, Amazon, Microsoft et al, what to speak of the number of times during the past year that Facebook came under the Congressional microscope, as well as Sean Parker’s et al’s claims of Facebook exploiting the psyche itself and ripping apart the social fabric. Judging from some of the comments, clearly, not everyone is a fan of various Facebook shenanigans, and the Wall Street Journal seems skeptical: Zuckerberg’s Dilemma: When Facebook’s Success Is Bad for Society Facebook’s chief has signaled he will do what it takes to curb the social network’s negative effects—but how far will he go?

Dear Mark, You can run 365 miles, but you sure can’t hide.

“One of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization. A lot of us got into technology because we believe it can be a decentralizing force that puts more power in people’s hands. (The first four words of Facebook’s mission have always been “give people the power”.) Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force…But today, many people have lost faith in that promise. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it,” says Zuckerberg.

Dear Mark: Since your looking to fix important issues, might help to acknowledge your own invaluable contribution to tech’s consolidation of power, your walled garden that is Facebook, and the government – and Facebook’s own – spying on its citizens/users.

There’s no doubt that he’s worried about what the blockchain will bring – and what it can eventually do to Facebook. Says John Battelle, Facebook Can’t Be Fixed. “Facebook’s core problem is not foreign interference, spam bots, trolls, or fame mongers. It’s the company’s core business model, and abandoning it is not an option,” says Battelle. Facebook makes its money from advertising, which is dependent upon data collection, which is antithetical to the id of the blockchain. As Zuckerberg himself notes, “counter-trends.. –like encryption and cryptocurrency — that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands. But they come with the risk of being harder to control”- and that’s not good for Facebook. As Battelle points out, Zuck is the majority shareholder in his company and can force a pivot at will in order to stay relevant in the coming new world. But history has shown us that, when caught in overarching intrusive behavior, as with Beacon, which ‘shut down’ in 2009 only to re-emerge as Facebook Connect, Facebook neither changes nor discards: it merely repurposes.

“This will be a serious year of self-improvement,” Zuckerberg concludes, ”and I’m looking forward to learning from working to fix our issues together.”

Dear Mark: ‘Our’ issues? Judging from CB Insights trust numbers, et al, the relationship has been fairly one-sided to date. Then again, in a Facebook world, we have always been the product; he who controls the algorithm makes the rules. Throw in censorship and manipulation, and ‘he’ ultimately controls the behavior as well – or worse (Is Facebook playing a part in the Rohingya genocide?).

In an us vs them scenario, Mark, there is no ‘our.’ You are ‘them.’

It’ll be interesting to see if Facebook re Zuckerberg will be able to make that pivot when his walled garden comes head to head with what effectively amounts to singular, self-contained gated communities. He’s well aware of the fact that that’s the barrel down which he’s currently staring. But note to self: As Amazon Prime customers know (not that Amazon is any paragon of virtue, either, mind you), when giving further viewing suggestions, the caption reads “Customers Also Watched.” Not ‘users’ – ‘customers.’ May be time to realize that rather than heading up your own personal fiefdom, that you’re heading a company with a product (Facebook) and customers (us).

Dear Mark, happy to hear that you had the time to learn Mandarin, visit all 50 states and run 365 miles, and that your “personal challenge” this year is hopefully to actually do your job.

Onward and forward.

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