Tags: facebook | mark zuckerberg | james madison | donald trump

WSJ Op-Ed: Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Is No James Madison

WSJ Op-Ed: Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Is No James Madison
(Dreamstime/AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 21 March 2018 12:02 PM

Facebook Inc., the social network with more than 2.2 billion users worldwide, can expect stricter regulations on its behavior because of its role in undermining democracy, writes a public relations expert in The Wall Street Journal.

“If you wanted to create the perfect instrument to undermine confidence in the Western canon—democratic government, the rule of law, respect for empirical evidence—you would design something like Facebook,” writes Paul Bergevin, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as a former communications executive at Intel. “

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg plans to speak up shortly to address a barrage of criticism for the social-media company’s handling of the private data of millions of users, Axios reported. He faces urgent demands from government officials in the U.S. and Europe to explain how his company let the personal data of 50 million people get sent to Cambridge Analytica, a political-advertising firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency in 2016, without their consent.

Worried investors started selling Facebook's stock, which has declined about 10.5 percent since the data sharing scandal made headlines. Wall Street analysts are cutting their future price estimates for the stock.

Obama's 2012 re-election campaign used data about Facebook users and their friends to build what it called a "targeted sharing" tool, USA Today reported. More than 1 million Obama supporters signed up for a Facebook app, giving the campaign permission to look at their lists of friends.

Bergevin contrasts Zuckerberg with former President James Madison, who helped to draft the U.S. Constitution and its principles to prevent the abuse of power.

“In designing the Constitution, Madison managed to appeal to people’s better angels while at the same time calculating man’s capacity to harm and behave badly,” Bergevin writes. “Facebook’s designers, on the other hand, appear to have assumed the best about people.”

Facebook got its start on college campuses as a way to connect people with their friends, but has grown much more sophisticated in the way it collects and analyzes data about its users in order to manipulate their thoughts and feelings on behalf of sponsors. One out of every five dollars spent on digital advertising goes to Facebook, according to an estimate by researcher eMarketer.

“While the site features plenty of baby and puppy photos, it has also become a place where ISIS brags about beheadings and Russians peddling misinformation seek to undermine the institutions of a free society,” Bergevin said of Facebook.

Last month, special prosecutor Robert Mueller obtained indictments against 13 Russians, charging them with posing on Facebook as legitimate interest groups when their real purpose was to promote confusion and disrupt the 2016 presidential elections.

“Facebook’s problem is one of structural design. Its continued high growth depends on engagement levels and audience size,” Bergevin said. “In the quest for revenue growth there is no incentive to expose impostors and make-believe content. The further fake news spreads and the more user engagement it generates, the more money Facebook makes.”

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Facebook Inc., the social network with more than 2.2 billion users worldwide, can expect stricter regulations on its behavior because of its role in undermining democracy, writes a public relations expert in The Wall Street Journal.
facebook, mark zuckerberg, james madison, donald trump
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2018-02-21
Wednesday, 21 March 2018 12:02 PM
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