‘The Problem Is Him’ Kara Swisher On Mark Zuckerberg’s Crisis And Ours

from NY Mag

When Vietnam’s communist rulers gave Facebook an ultimatum to censor anti-government posts earlier this year or leave the country, Mark Zuckerberg personally made the call to appease them. It’s among the damning revelations about the company to emerge from whistleblowers in recent weeks, most of them contained in the so-called Facebook Papers. The trove shows how Facebook knowingly amplified anger and misinformation about the platform and the company’s engineers chillingly identified ways to manipulate the behavior of its 3.5 billion users, meaning about half the planet’s population may ultimately be swayed by the whims of one man.

No journalist may know Zuckerberg better than Kara Swisher. In 2010, she and the former Wall Street Journal technology columnist Walt Mossberg made him literally sweat over questions about user privacy. Since then, Swisher has spoken to Zuckerberg many times, including during an infamous interview in 2018, when he said Facebook should not take down posts denying the Holocaust. Intelligencer spoke to Swisher, who co-hosts New York Magazine’s Pivot podcast, about Zuckerberg as revealed in the Facebook Papers and the moment of crisis for the company he built.

Well, I met him in the office and then we took a walk together. That was a thing he did with reporters back then.

More here.

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6 Comments

  1. This article touches on something that we see a lot of in our society. The people in charge of major companies and businesses often are not well equipped in their makeup or DNA to be able to relate to their consumers and stay in touch with reality. The article talks about Mark Zuckerberg and how he is a flawed leader of facebook and he is one of Facebook’s biggest problems. The man who helped to found and create the company could be holding it back.

    The reason the interviewer Kara Swisher believes Zuckerberg is holding Facebook back is mainly because of his lack of communication skills. Being a leader, especially in business, requires you to have great communication skills and the ability to relate to your employees and consumers. Zuckerberg, who grew up in a very expensive suburb in New York, has never really had to deal with a lot of the trials and tribulations less privileged and sheltered people have to go through throughout their lives. He may not be fully equipped to relate to the vast majority of people that use Facebook that did not grow up as privileged as he did. This leads to someone like Zuckerberg to not realize the full consequences of their actions. The article gives the example of Facebook Live and how some people were concerned that users could broadcast crimes like murder on the feature. Zuckerberg and the people who share his sentiments were confused and seemingly didn’t take that possibility into consideration, and ultimately bad things have been shown on the feature. When running Facebook, you need to be aware of the way consumers use your app and how information is broadcasted out to billions of users, because they can be swayed by decisions people at the top like Zuckerberg make. When dealing with significantly difficult social and political issues, is it ideal to have someone like him making the decisions on what people see and have thrown in front of them? There are not many people who are equipped or at all who can make those decisions. Zuckerberg is ill-equipped for the task based on his beliefs and experiences. He thinks that he can take user data, some of which that is private, and use it to make algorithms that make Facebook and the world better. He wants to push community and connections with people, but a lot of his decisions end up dividing or censoring his users. Decisions that are made at Facebook are advertised as “in the best-interest of the people”, but how could he know what is in users best interests if he simply cannot relate to the vast majority of them?

    Swisher states that she does not believe that Zuckerberg is a bad person or has bad intentions. She actually does give him some credit for his improving (even if marginally) social skills and other positive habits he’s picked up. But he is still learning on the job, and that is a hard thing to do when you reach billions of people. He may well just be ill-equipped for his responsibilities. And like many other influential heads of companies and businesses, it is not due to a lack of technical skill, but rather a lack of communication skills and the idea of real-world consequences.

  2. Alongside many other successful CEOs and moguls, Mark Zuckerberg has attracted a lot of controversy and disdain on account of his power and wealth. Facebook has maintained a notorious history in regards to their use of user data and general manipulation of users, still ongoing today with the emergence of whistleblower Frances Haugen’s comments. Among the most notable of Facebook’s controversies over the years involves an emotional experiment on hundreds of thousands of users (https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28051930). Facebook had successfully managed to manipulate users to make them feel happier or more depressed based on the content they are shown. With Zuckerberg being the CEO and figurehead of the company, he tends to be directly associated with each controversy.

    Kara Swisher, who seems to be the journalist who has spent the most time communicating with Zuckerberg, ultimately seems to describe him as someone blind to the concerns and some realities of the general public. He seems to brush off such concerns and act confused as to why they even exist, with Swisher citing his privileged upbringing being the source of this trend. Being born into wealth, attending the prestigious university of Harvard and enjoying great success with Facebook, Swisher implies that Zuckerberg is unable to think “like you or me.”

    The comment that struck me as the most notable from Swisher insights is that, despite her many deep criticisms of Zuckerberg, she does not consider him to be an evil person. Many are quick to label CEOs and millionaires as evil human beings, with Zuckerberg being no exception. Yet, despite being among the most renowned critics of Zuckerberg, Swisher does not subscribe to this mindset. She instead seems to imply that he is simply in a dangerous position for a man who possesses his particular qualities.

    Indeed, it is a bit concerning to think about how much control a single individual can wield over billions of people. Zuckerberg appears to be incapable of processing and addressing the concerns of the public, yet is at the helm of one of the most powerful companies in the world in regards to data control. He has shown little sign of improving in this regard, yet will continue to have control over the data of Facebook’s 2.91 billion users. As shown through Facebook’s various controversies, he can be considered responsible for Facebook’s direct and potentially harmful influences on people’s emotions and conditions. Perhaps Zuckerberg really is not a bad person, yet he remains in a position that can directly influence billions of people that he seems to not be able to understand.

  3. This was a very interesting article, as I always find any information about Mark Zuckerberg and conflicting reports of him being evil and non-human, or simply “misunderstood,” extremely fascinating. Kara Swisher, as deducted from this piece, is a journalist that knows Zuckerberg better than most. Despite having highlighted some of his major flaws as a CEO of a global social platform and many things that he has clearly done wrong, Swisher seems to defend the argument that he is still human. Everybody has their own opinion about multi-billionaires such as Zuckerberg, Bezos, or Musk, which is why I appreciated how Swisher presented compelling arguments and evidence on both sides of the argument. No matter your opinion, it is an undisputed fact that Zuckerberg has a serious issue when it comes to accountability. With countless incidents of Zuckerberg and his Facebook team over the years deciding not to remove or censor dangerous information/posts – whether that include misinformation about political issues or public executions on Facebook Live – this issue is important to recognize and to decipher why it is the way it is.
    Something that particularly stood out to me about this article was obviously the perspective in which Swisher offers. Swisher, at least from the way that she talks about her time with Zuckerberg, admits that he would get nervous around her in conversations and therefore allowed him to show his true colors. The most concerning part of this article is about the way that we talk about Mark Zuckerberg and how he is as a person. This is a person who became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at age 23 and has continued to dominate the social media game for over a decade. It’s extremely important to keep in mind that while we are talking about a clearly mentally unstable person, who has little to no awareness of boundaries, that has a massive influence of every one of our lives. Swisher’s final conclusion is that Zuckerberg is “very human” and that’s the real problem. The conclusion that I came to while reading this is that while it may not be as simple as labeling him an “evil person,” it’s crucial to recognize the danger of a man with such peculiar and frankly immoral qualities to have such power. After reading this, however, I still have the same feelings about him – that he’s a terrible human being who takes advantage of people and has no regard for crossing the line when it comes to achieving his goals. Again, I am not Kara Swisher and have not personally had a conversation with him – but I think the person he is, is evident in his choices and actions over the years.

  4. Kara Swisher reflects on the first time she met Mark Zuckerburg, FaceBook’s Ceo, and explains the details of his flaws and mannerisms throughout his whole history with him. Zuckerburg, who is described as a very awkward, shy, but earnest guy points out as a flaw he doesn’t know how to communicate. At first, she explains that he described Facebook as a “utility”, distraught that Facebook wasn’t as popular as the social media network MySpace. Kara, who finds Zuckerburg as a “learning organism”, her mentor doesn’t think he evolved at all. Myself personally, you can tell that Zuckerburg has very huge and bright plans for his company but is willing to achieve it at any cost and he’s a very privileged man and never had to worry about working hard to achieve quite anything. With a lack of communication skills and being shy, I agree that he has taken more than he can handle. With the thought of him corrupting the youth and invading user privacy for monetary gain, he comes off as selfish and he needs to take his personal beliefs in life and pour that into his company if he really cares about humanity.

  5. I have really mixed opinions about the current controversy with Facebook. I personally do not like or agree with facebook showing misinformation on their platform. Certain examples like people denying the holocaust is not only offensive but also harmful to those who read these type of articles. I also do not like the greed that comes from this and data mining since these companies make money in many other ways. However, Facebook censoring this information would violate the rights of people. Specifically, this censorship violates the First Amendment and the freedom of speech it provides people in America. In addition, while it is sad that we have to rely on whistleblowers to get this information about Facebook, not all the blame should be put on Mark Zuckerburg. People within the company (and those who operate other similar companies) should be held accountable as well since they could stand up to him or make decisions that help protect the privacy and security of consumers. I also feel that while he is not innocent, some people are out to assassinate Zuckerburg’s character which is a really scary precedent. This is especially scary with the rise of cancel culture on social media platforms (ironically this is an issue on some of his own) since with one bad decision, a person’s entire legacy that they have worked hard to earn can be destroyed essentially overnight. So while Mark Zuckerburg has done many unethical and irresponsible things with his power, it is hard for me to fully take an article like this completely seriously. The reason I say this is that this woman being interviewed has interacted with Zuckerburg and formed her opinion about her. She could have a bias against him that would speak more negatively about him than others she has interacted with that hold similar positions of power. In addition, saying negative things about Mark Zuckerburg is what is getting people to click on headlines about him. Saying bad things about him also makes her seem more respectable and protects her reputation as a journalist for the same reasons. Nevertheless, the article was interesting to read. I really found it fascinating that the author compared him to Augustus Caesar due to him not being educated enough for his position of power. Secondly, I found it interesting how he would say something in accord with the journalist’s opinion and not act upon it. Finally, I found it interesting that the author suggests that he will distance himself from Facebook altogether so he does not have to claim responsibility for the wrongdoings of the company. While some of these ideas are believable and fall in line with what has been said about him recently, it is important to take this article with a grain of salt for reasons I said before.

  6. All eyes have been on Facebook as they recently changed their name to Meta, as they switch their focus from a social media platform, onto the metaverse. Facebook has a grasp on the world with three and a half billion users. Everyone knows about Facebook but what I didn’t know is that half of the world uses Facebook. The article mentioned Facebook’s power regarding how easy it would be for them to sway their user’s behaviors and opinions with intentional misinformation. This was only touched on a little bit as the majority of the article was on Mark Zuckerburg. Kara Swisher, who conducted several interviews with Zuckerburg, shared her opinions on Zuckerburg and his journey as a leader. She starts off by saying Zuckerburg was earnest and shy during their first encounter. Since he had an awkward time talking she said he was unfit to be the leader of Facebook because of his communication skills. As a leader in any aspect of life, having good communications skills is essential. You need to be able to get your message across quickly and concisely, in order to bring your team together to accomplish a certain goal. Without communication, there would be no cohesiveness and therefore a lack of efficiency.

    Kara also said he was undereducated for the job. You would think there would be no better person to run the company, than the man that built the foundations, but Facebook has outgrown Zuckerberg. Creating an app is one thing, but is Zuckerburg the right man to make decisions about the political issues Facebook has faced? Facebook has grown too big and Zuckerburg is unqualified to be at the top. Kara looked back to an interview with Mark in 2018 about killings in Myanmar in which Facebook played a role in. When asked how he felt about the situation he replied by saying he just wanted to fix it. Kara was baffled because he didn’t want to know how he caused it, and compared him to an arsonist wanting to put out the flames he created. Zuckerburg is trying to better himself through education though. He’s constantly learning about the world as he tries to apply what he learns to his company. But Kara seems to think that is the main problem; he is ill-equipped for the leadership role as the head of Facebook because of his lack of education in leadership.

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