Mark Zuckerberg Believes Only in Mark Zuckerberg

 wired.com  06/03/2020 11:00:00   Siva Vaidhyanathan

What does Mark Zuckerberg believe? What does he really care about? How could a man who marched in a gay pride parade, who advocated for increased immigration to the United States, who hired a high-profile Democrat and feminist as his second-in-command, sit and eat with Donald Trump?

Why, at a moment of global and national crisis, when more than 100,000 Americans have died of a virus that could have been contained by a competent government, a quarter of Americans are in danger of being evicted or thrown into poverty, and thousands of Americans are facing off against violent police forces in the streets of cities and towns of all sizes, does Zuckerberg get on the phone with Trump for a nice chat?

Like other billionaires, Zuckerberg has the money, power, and influence to take a stand against such malfeasance and malevolence. With three global platformsFacebook, Instagram, and WhatsAppcapable of structuring the cultural and intellectual experience of billions around the world, Zuckerberg chooses to do the opposite. He chooses to bolster Trump and other authoritarians, despite all the harm they do to the world.

Zuckerberg knew in 2016 that Trump was a racist. He knew that Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women. Yet Zuckerberg allowed Facebook employees to help Trump use Facebook more effectively, certainly contributing to the electoral college win.

How could a person who seems so cosmopolitan let his company effectively support the campaigns of authoritarian nationalists like Narendra Modi in India or Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines? Why does he let them use his platforms to terrorize critics, journalists, and scholars?

Over the past two weeks these questions have taken on a new urgency as Facebook employees have for the first time publicly voiced anger and frustration with Zuckerbergs decision to protect Trumps calls for state violence against those who are protesting racist police violence. While Twitter took a modest stand against Trumps hyperbolic threats, Zuckerberg announced that he sees the posts as different from those that threaten violence because they were about the use of state force. Seriously.

In a leaked staff phone call on Tuesday, Zuckerberg defended his decision to angry Facebook staffers. We basically concluded after the research and after everything Ive read and all the different folks that Ive talked to that the reference is clearly to aggressive policingmaybe excessive policingbut it has no history of being read as a dog whistle for vigilante supporters to take justice into their own hands, Zuckerberg said of Trumps posts that taunted protesters with, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.

And after some civil rights leaders spoke with Zuckerberg on Monday they left disappointed and stunned, convinced that Zuckerberg does notor refuses tounderstand basic issues like voter suppression and racism.

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Now, as the United States faces its greatest threat since the Civil War, Zuckerberg panders to the authoritarian in the White House.

You have to ask yourself why. "It's about the money" does not quite track. He would have all that money regardless. Zuckerberg and Facebook are deeply embedded in the global economy and power structure. He does not need Trump.

Trump has no direct or immediate power to regulate Facebook or constrict its actions in the short term. Perhaps Zuckerberg is hedging, assuming that Trump and the Republicans will go easier on him if they prevail in November. Zuckerberg already has purchased the support of some powerful Democrats, so he doesnt have to work so hard to keep them at bay.

So what does Zuckerberg really believe? What does he really want for the world?

These are questions that for years have been perplexing those of us who write about Facebook. After going through hundreds of speeches, letters, and Facebook posts by Zuckerberg during the research for my latest book, I thought I had him nailed down.

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