Former Mentor Says Mark Zuckerberg Intoxicated by Power, Calls Disinformation ‘A National Security Issue’

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi interviewed Mark Zuckerberg mentor (and early investor) Roger McNamee for a special report on “the disinformation epidemic.”

McNamee — also the author of Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe — says Zuckerberg is too focused on “imposing his vision” to acknowledge the website’s threat to national security, adding “It’s about power.” Ali Velshi: The fact that rumor, innuendo, conspiracies, outright lies are amplified by social media is no accident. That is a feature built into platforms like Twitter and Facebook. It is part of their business model. Long before the election of 2016, Facebook knew all of this to be true, but it followed a familiar pattern of responses. It denied that was a problem. When it acknowledged the problem, it treated it as a public relations issue, not as a core business issue. It offered up half-baked solutions that changed nothing, and it fought off attempts to regulate it. Because what Facebook has created is immensely profitable…

Roger McNamee says he warned Mark Zuckerberg of the immense problems that Facebook’s business model could unleash…

Roger McNamee: The company essentially believes that it is sovereign, the equivalent of another nation. It has nearly twice as many monthly active users as there are people in China. And so Mark Zuckerberg very much has the view that no one can tell him what to do… Facebook’s own research says that 64% of the time that a person joins an extremist network on Facebook, it is because Facebook has recommended that they do so…

People sit there and assume it’s about money, and I think money is secondary. I really think it’s about power. I think Mark Zuckerberg has a vision that connecting all the people in the world on one network — his network — is the best thing any human being can do. And in his notion it has to do with efficiency, it has to do with scale, it has to do with imposing his vision on it.

And that kind of power is intoxicating. Remember, between when the company went public and 2018, the company got very little pushback — in fact what it really got was tons of love from investors and journalists and the like. And they were in their own filter bubble and started to believe their own press and their own point of view about what was going on. And I just think they’re at this point now where they are just disconnected, there’s really no sensitivity, no understanding that they might have a responsibility to society.

And at this point, with the election coming so closely, this has become a national security issue, because effectively the platform can be used by anybody. These advertising tools can be used by campaigns, they can be used by foreign governments, they can be used by provocateurs, people who would like to make trouble. That happens every single day, and from Facebook’s point of view, that’s just business as usual.

They want to hide behind the first amendment. They want to say this is about freedom of speech. But amplification is not freedom of speech. Amplification is a business choice for profit.