Lou's Views

The author’s Facebook page. It doesn’t get worse than pissing off the Anti-Defamation League. But that’s not how Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and those who profit from lies–and call it social media–keep score. (Photo illustration: Lou Carlozo)

If you’ve followed the stunning news stories about the Facebook leaks, it may only confirm what you’ve always suspected. The overwhelming evidence indicates this company puts profit über alles and ignores the clear signs that its products make teenage girls suicidal—but does, y’know, put a metaphorical “like” on hate messages that promote click value and web traffic. 

Meanwhile, leave it up to Facebook to face down the backlash with a front lash. What else could you call it but giving whistleblower Frances Haugen and concerned political and parental critics the middle finger when you announce a major name change with galactic dominance connotations?   

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and not exactly known for reigning in his arrogance, announced the change during a virtual event Thursday. The timing, by way of any spinmeister’s playbook, is impeccable. Not only does it steal the headlines away from the damaging document avalanche; it also sends a clear and unmistakable signal.

Yes, Meta is meant to signify an entry into a metaverse that reimagines today’s internet for 3D. But you’d have to be a proboscis monkey to miss the double meanings. Like: “Don’t bother us, mere petty mortals, we’re busy building a METAVERSE.” And: “Look, all this crap about us hurting people is really just a distraction from the Grand Meta Picture. You wouldn’t understand.”

Ugh. Zuck even unveiled a new infinity-sign logo, just in case we missed the point. On social media, everyone lives forever. 

Yet on another level, he really does hope we miss the point. Social media is not media. Not even close. But as a bullhorn and bully pulpit for the most extreme, detestable creeps, liars, and thugs, it blasts a whole lot louder than the traditional media outlets that sweat the details and work hard to paint a complete picture of the truth. And in Facebook’s case, that truth is damning.    

Politico, The New York Times, and Washington Post have been following the revelations in thousands of Haugen’s documents with hustle, brio, and fearlessness. This story isn’t about to end, even if Facebook is broken into its component parts. (I believe it will be and certainly hope so.)  Yet in defiance of that fate, it’s betting on becoming huge … indispensable .. … Meta!

This is just begging for a Marvel movie. Or a Star Wars Death Star named Meta, piloted by Darth Mark. 

Qwoth Facebook: Washington Post not as reliable as us

But the “meta attitude” of Facebook’s cultural contemptuousness—that social media is somehow more valuable than mainstream media—is clearly demonstrated in one revelation, via affidavit. Facebook communications official Tucker Bounds allegedly said:

“Some legislators will get pissy. And then in a few weeks they will move onto something else. Meanwhile we are printing money in the basement, and we are fine.”

Missing the irony in her response—because there’s nothing like letting right-wing lunatics plan an election overthrow based on false information—Facebook spokeswoman Erin McPike defended Bounds as follows: 

“This is beneath the Washington Post, which during the last five years competed ferociously with The New York Times over the number of corroborating sources its reporters could find for single anecdotes in deeply reported, intricate stories. It sets a dangerous precedent to hang an entire story on a single source making a wide range of claims without any apparent corroboration.”

In other words, “FAKE NEWS! FAKE NEWS!” Zuck and Co. learned well from The Donald: Instead of confronting the problem, double down and blame the messenger or your enemy. But I have another idea. Ask Facebook why it took the desecration of the U.S. Capitol and an attempted overthrow of our government to decide, “Yeah, maybe it’s time to get this Trump guy off the platform.”

After all, he had tons of followers. I’m sure somewhere, a Facebook numbers cruncher calculated potential lost revenue in an effort to stall that move, no matter how much co-workers gasped at what the company was allowing to happen. In giving Donald Trump, QAnon, Stop the Steal and fringe lunatics a broadcast beacon louder than a fleet of jumbo jets, Facebook aided and abetted the most shameful domestic act of treason in our democracy’s history. There’s also that Russian manipulation of our 2016 elections. But I digress. 

Our values: Qwoted = Anti-Facebook

Without putting ourselves on a pedestal—maybe a cardboard shoebox is more apropos—we’ve been talking a lot at recent Qwoted meetings about being an “Anti-Facebook.” We cannot begin to boast even a millionth of the worldwide influence. But we are gaining a strong foothold within our core constituency: the real media and those who work hard to make it happen.

Our service, like theirs, is free. But we’re not out to suck your data dry to sell you stuff. We want to encourage discourse and meaningful connection among media professionals. Why use that as a deceptive cloak to secretly support rancor and disinformation for clicks? We want to make money the honest way–and in the process grow as a result of good work that “goes viral” because it allows us to create a mini-meta of meaning, if you will.

Can we foster the passing of media best practices to new generations? Can we give podcasters and multi-media journalists reporting tools they’ve never enjoyed before? Can we expand our worldwide reach to connect reporters with reliable, trustworthy sources? To the best of our bootstrap ability, we’re doing all this and will continue to do so. Let Facebook worry about virtual reality; we’re concerned with the reality that’s right in front of us.

Mark Zuckerberg: Once a liar…

I have repeated this theme in past columns; I am convinced more than ever that it applies here. If we go back to the very beginning—2003 and a fledgling website called HarvardConnection.com—Zuckerberg was no visionary. He didn’t invent anything. Rather, he was an undergrad coder in a dorm room, recruited by three Harvard U seniors to finish programming for their site. Not his. Theirs.

They entrusted Zuckerberg with their vision and gave him keys to the code castle. Offered sweat equity, Zuck said “count me in” and told him he was on it. But the deceptions Zuckerberg then proceeded to unspool—detailed in numerous correspondences with the HarvardConnect team—led to him launching thefacebook.com in January 2004. Despite repeated promises to finish the HarvardConnect project:

Zuckerberg left the HarvardConnection code incomplete and non-functional, with a registration that did not connect with the back-end connections. The About section of the ConnectU website included this sentence, which was live on December 4, 2004: “We’ve cycled through several programmers, even one who stole our ideas to create a competing site, without informing us of his intentions.”

Did I mention that all of this was Zuckerberg’s first encounter with leaked documents? In all, 52 emails and a raft of instant messages went public, revealing Zuck’s litany of excuses for not getting the work done. Like: “Sorry I have not been reachable for the past few days. I’ve basically been in the lab the whole time working on a cs problem set which I’m still not finished with.”

CS, I believe, stands for “conscious stealing.” Eventually, Facebook settled for a reported $65 million, chump change for a newly minted billionaire. Applied to an academic pursuit–say a class project–I have to wonder if Zuckerberg’s behavior would’ve warranted expulsion. 

I think you get my point. The evidence suggests that Zuckerberg spun Facebook out of a grand deception. If so, somewhere deep in his core, there’s a hollow spot where his conscience and sense of ethics should be. My lifetime of experience suggests that outside of joining a 12-step group or getting religion, people do not address character flaws easily, if at all. Applying a Pavlovian measure, billions is a pretty good reward and reinforcement for sneaking off with the goods.

Perhaps that explains a lot in terms of what Haugen’s documents have uncovered. If you pursue money at the expense of truth, that’s a sign of something devious, whether in personal character or corporate culture. 

Now, consider how much money and career achievement Haugen walked away from to speak damning truth to unrepentant power.

So. This Zuckerberg fellow—and his $903 billion company—are the ones we’re trusting to come clean about what Facebook does to manipulate teens, steer political discourse, give racism a public platform and stir toxic anger for profit. And then tell us that the picture presented in the leaked documents is “distorted.”

Distorted is the right word. But not in the sense that the Facebook machine would have us think.

Because if that’s their version of truth—and we’re to trust a tech deity who began his journey with a hoodie full of cock and bull—then that’s as much an alternative virtual reality as you can ask for.

Or, if you prefer: How completely whacked out and Meta. 

Lou Carlozo is Qwoted’s Editor in Chief. All opinions expressed have no manipulative algorithm to uphold them. Email lou@qwoted.com or connect on LinkedIn.