Jamie Bartlett

Facebook’s enemies are relishing Mark Zuckerberg’s troubles

Facebook's enemies are relishing Mark Zuckerberg's troubles
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Zuck speaks! He’s finally responded to the Cambridge Analytica debacle. To be honest, I could have predicted almost word-for-word this evening’s statement: It wasn’t really our fault; it was mostly their fault; we’re a little bit responsible (‘front-up’ I can imagine a comms person insisting); and here are the steps we’ve taken. In fact, we’d already taken most of these steps in 2014, when all this happened. I sensed a weariness to it. He concluded his penultimate paragraph with the phrase ‘going forward’, which is usually a sign someone’s out of ideas.

Still, and I can’t quite believe I’m writing this, I almost feel sorry for Mark. He can legitimately say that most of the fault lies with Dr Kogan, aka Dr Specter (how Bond like!) who Facebook claim undertook a legit survey, but then shared with Cambridge Analytica without permission. He can legitimately say Facebook demanded it was deleted, and were promised it was. Everyone's repeating the phrase ‘Facebook data breach’, but it would be more accurate to say ‘a breach of Facebook’s rules on data’. That doesn’t sound even half as bad, does it? Perhaps Facebook didn’t respond quite quickly enough to suggestions that Cambridge Analytica hadn’t done so. But what were they supposed to do exactly? Rock up and demand to see their servers?

You know what happens when the playground bully show his weakness – all his former victims pile in mercilessly. It’s no secret that several newspapers really do not like Facebook, understandably seeing them as a new competitor for online advertising revenue. And they've scooped it up, without any of the responsibility or costs of traditional journalism.

I say ‘almost’ because in the end, this is an entirely predicable, and perhaps even unavoidable, result of Zuck’s mission to connect the whole world. It seems very little could ever persuade him this isn’t a brilliant idea. He's still reticent I think to accept that some of the results of his connectivity dream – Russian adverts, mass data collection, rage, hate crime – is on them. And their entire business model, in the end, depends on providing exactly the sort of precise, micro-targeted advertising that Cambridge Analytica were trying to exploit.