tv After Words Steven Levy Facebook CSPAN January 13, 2021 10:01pm-11:01pm EST
>> stephen leiby okay and will come of it is so nice to see you. i think the nass time we may have sat together was when we are both working at newsweek, maybe in the company canteen or something. but, as you know i am a big fan of yours and a huge fan of your first book on google in the flesh. and now to come back at this particular moment to come back and talk about facebook and the inside story. and couldn't be more timely. and i'm just gonna start off
with lots of places to go with this also, but something timely. literally this morning as he came to do the show? mark we heard about the happy notes of twitter, the fact that trump has gone to facebook to get his message out, you know facebook is done a lot of criticism and has got some over the years. i actually wrote a column recently about why mark zuckerberg has not fact checked the president. what is this relationship between facebook and the white house. i'm just going to throw you a big question to launch you off? >> thank you for doing this. it is good to conduct with you again through some virtuality. so, like a lot of things you can't just tease out anyone problem the facebook. it's dna, it's origins, and in
the case of trump obviously he wasn't a factor in the early days. it wasn't something they talked about on the dorm room when they started. but by the time the trump campaign got rolling in 2015 this became an issue for facebook. it was on top of and put it on top and sort of a mess the way, controversial content. and then in 2015 went trump posted stuff that was anti- muslim. and it actually did violate a lot of people inside facebook. the company's community standards but facebook decided not to mess with that. to leave it up even though might've violated the standards. and even though zucker book might've thought that also they didn't what to make an
example of it. that's when zuckerberg started along the path that really made us listen. right now he believes that politicians should be able to stay whatever they want so people can judge them by their speech, even if its harmful speech. and as time goes on this gets tougher and tougher for facebook to defend. because it becomes a bullhorn for toxic speech. and nasa the corner he has painted himself into. >> you know that's is trusting because in recent months a lot of the big tech companies have decided to take a different tactic on this. it's been a very division of his shoe. i'm curious when i wrote my own book, don't be evil, i really focused on the loophole. cb eight to 30 which was the carveouts from the mid- 1990s. that gave the platform, to just tiny startup entities, the freedom to be and say
whatever they wanted to be. to be the town square, to not be held liable, but steve all right we all know as journalists these are giant media companies. and so i'm curious as you really dug into this issue both in your previous issue on google and this book on facebook. when do you come out? are these guys the town square anymore? or is it something else? how's we think about them? >> i think 230 gets, the regulation the law that was passed in 1996, really way before we have these giant platforms, it was to encourage internet companies. i don't think that was the main issue, one of the big issues here was what are the big platforms going to do police speech, to make a safe environment for their users. i think 230 gives them the
opportunity to do that. and i think it's a question of where they draw the line. zucker book always says, that hate you don't want me to be the arbiter of the speech. of about 3 billion people. and no he's not the ideal arbiter, but the ideas he built this platform and he built the arbiter. he is the person who has to decide where the line is and, what i will say and, what can't be said in his platform. what is toxic and what makes people feel uncomfortable. this is absolutely old not allowed like pornography, misinformation about important things, like anti- fax information. which took facebook a long time to ban, or information about voting, which would just gird people from voting people which facebook still is not do
a very good job. or things like dog whistles, like trump quite often sends out. certainly, it makes people of color uncomfortable and it makes the platform itself somewhat toxic. so, it's a tough line to draw that's what he built. he has to own up to that. that really is the issue, and the fact is, he's not doing a great job of it. because the more they and advanced speech is exposed, it just feels wrong. and he has more and more difficulty denying it. in that is why he's constantly taking his little many steps back when confronted with the consequences of where his decisions are taking him in a given moment. >> i want to come back to disinformation, this information, free speech and election. but first i want to note, i love the beginning of your
book. because it paints his picture, you do this so well i have to say, i've called you the david halverson of chats, you're always kind of getting right into people's lives and getting the details. but you're also painting his big picture, and the picture you painted was that zucker book in africa would be sort of an on to adoring entrepreneurs around him. almost seeming in that antidote to me like a head of state. and this is something that i always think about when i think about facebook. you get this later in the book, this.at which you decided you and to write about facebook, a billion users on one day. now we know they've got more users and the largest countries in the world, and many cases. so these companies, facebook in particular, they almost seem to like supranational entities. you know i think about someone who studies economic history, like east india country. our company.
could you find that or what what is that mean? see mark. >> yes i definitely found that, and as you mentioned i decide to write facebook, the inside story, when zucker book posted in 2015 at the end summer that a billion people had logged into facebook and been on facebook, active users in the 24 hour period in against you mention, and the total membership of facebook, even back then, was larger than any country that has logged in and now there's numbers along dinners bigger than any country which is approaching 3 billion people. and when i started doing the book it took me a year to get them to sign off and give me cooperation. i want to hear. >> i want to hear about that were to come back to that. the mac you're right he was like a head of state he came from africa from italy piddly came out the prime minister he met with the pope. this is you would expect mark zuckerberg to do.
in a few months before that and he came to facebook on a state visit. so you know, facebook had a foreign policy. he was greeted like a head of state. in almost like some kind of god among the geeks of nigeria and tight community of entrepreneurs are in africa, and him coming there blew their mind it was surprise visits. it was his little start of community where he popped in. and i realize later that that was kind of peak facebook because only a few months later and the 2016 election occurred and that really was the moment where it flipped for facebook, it went from this revered company. it had a lot of issues in the past that skated by them. but from that.on it was not skating pious issues.
it's had to answer for all of the things it's did that were toxic, that cause people's problems, the copy was attention, that couples data and privacy, and then it flipped. that's when the book became an exercise in understanding how that happens. and maybe actually go back even longer and before i thought. to the longer days of early days of facebook and how this thing happens. >> that's fascinating. well for starters, i can relate as an author. that's a tough thing when your story changes in the middle of your book cycle, the really have to scramble. >> it really wasn't the middle of the book cycle, took me a fear used to do it and then of two months in order a few months in it gave me the advantage of covering facebook. in interviewing the people at facebook there are hundreds of interviews. while this was happening this
thing. while the companies are quotation was unraveling and watching that process in real-time. >> so what did you learn? what did you learn about mark zuckerberg and his childhood? that could inform or understand and help us understand where he is today. i talked his parents. >> his mother told me a story which i felt really resonated with how facebook unfolded. he grew up in westchester county, not one of the more posh suburbs, but a nice suburb. and the public school he went to though, didn't have a lot a whole lot of advanced classes and computer programs. so he wanted to go to a private school, they had a better computer program and take advanced classes and he was interested in the classics. he was interested in conquerors like alexander the great, which is telling of
itself. his mother really wanted him to go to a nearby private school horace mann where he could commute. the oldest sibling in the family was going to harvard that year, his mother didn't want to lose two kids the same year, but he heard about the program at phillips exeter which would've required boarding. and he wanted to go there. so his mother said listen, why don't we just interview the people at horace mann and maybe you'll like it. he said i'm going to interview the people, i'll do that for you, but i'm going somewhere else. and he said i'm going to exeter and that's where he went. and that reminded me a lot of the decision-making that i learned at the place of facebook. through all of its history, where quite often something would come up and his lieutenants might warn him against it, this isn't good for our users, sometimes they would even say this isn't right it is kind of morally wrong. and he would say, let's go do it. and i thought, exeter, he
didn't come from there but that's where he first became familiar with the program called facebook as far as the social context, but the idea that when he makes his mind up that's it. and since he has total power at facebook he controls the majority of the voting stock, even the board of directors can't overrule him. when he says, let's do it, and he says exeter they serve they go. >> that is fascinating. thinking of total power, they can at this wonderful antidote in this book about the eye of sauron. tell us all the eyes of sauron. >> well, particularly when he was younger, he had this habit, it was unbelievably unnerving that you could ask him a question and he wouldn't answer it. he would just stare at you. and i think human beings have to blank the certain amount
time aware it could be an issue with i health. he seems to defy that sometimes, and when he looks at you and stares at you. and don graham told me he the same problem and other people's accounts of him, the first time i met him in 2006 i asked him some supple questions about facebook. how many students are enrolled, et cetera and he would just look at me. he would not answer the questions. at that what am i going on here? mind the twilight zone. he got better at minimizing that over the years. but every so often, go get that stare and one of his lieutenants andrew bosworth, no man is because, he described it as the eye of sauron. >> that is really something. you mentioned roger mcnamee, he was also a source for me. in fact i encouraged him to write his suck.
i connected him with andrew whiteley en masse. it's interesting because when i first met roger, he was going out into the media. roger was for those that don't know have him, he was a venture capitalist and a seed investor and tech companies and sort of an early mentor to mark. and elevation has a stake, or it was through elevation maybe? >> and then roger investor personally and elevation. >> that's right. >> roger benefited greatly from it in no way initially that his company had not. >> so it's interesting, so he was out talking really against his own book at that stage to the media. in saying, look i became concerned free 2016 about what
i was saying on facebook. i felt there was something wrong here. i went, he apparently wrote a letter to mark and cheryl, and he kind of sort of like you know this is like your kindly uncle coming to you and saying hey guys i think we have a little bit of a problem. apparently, they went very corporate pr him very quickly. shut them down. it's hard for me to kind of metabolize how someone can get that information from a trusted figure and not take it seemingly more seriously. in your reporting, what conclusion did you come to about this? >> yes because facebook really downplayed the degree to which roger was in influence. i did look into this, and it's interesting. in roger's book, i think he has more accurate count of his degree of his influence in facebook. and maybe some of the media
appearances he did. to have him describe it zuckerberg's main mentor, which i don't think if you pin them to the wall he wouldn't claim. it is overblown. i did find that some of the stories he tells her true. facebook's first privacy officer, chris kelly told me, he did connect roger with our when he did have a meeting with him when yahoo was trying to buy for facebook. and he did have a role, but not a soul role but a role among others helping connect sandberg to facebook. but by the time he was complaining he had faded from the picture. he was on a regular advisor. so basically, they were getting a letter from someone who maybe he was important in the earlier days of facebook, but now wasn't someone who they were in close contact with. so they felt comfortable snuffing off his concerns.
so facebook set of partnership stan rose, these specific things he was complaining about were indeed under discussing facebook that facebook already decided that it was going to not do anything about the misinformation that was circulating in 2016. so, it was in a new thing that he was bringing up it was something they had already made that decision, a destructive decision i believe, and roger was right to call it out. but, it wasn't like you know, roger was saying here something you don't know about. it was something they knew about and already decided not to do anything about it. that is misinformation is happening during the election that by and large, helped trump and hurt clinton. >> why do you think, going deep on zach and sheryl sandberg they'll get to in a minute, what made them make
that decision? that's a big decision particularly for a no liberal libertarian but that's a good decision to say we see if it were not do thing about it. >> so, the answer is to reconstruct the frame of 2016. three things are happening with the election on facebook. the first is, that trump is using facebook and the way it's supposed to be used almost better than anybody else has in history. bosworth told me, he was in awe of him, this later came out in a memo, that it was beautiful. essentially, trump in the trump campaign played facebook like a straw to various while the clinton people played it like the cardboard banjo you'd find in the street. the trump campaign accepted, and embedded in facebook and
the ins and outs of how to use it. they made a bigger bet on him. he did thousands of ads every day. sometimes hundreds of thousands. and whereas the clinton campaign did not use it well at all. that was part one. part two, was misinformation. people found that they could make money by circulating fake stories by publications that didn't exist, that were based look clinton bad word to be criminal like pizza gate, like she was running a child trafficking ring in a pizzeria. and that would get people to go to some page where the ads were. it was financially motivated campaign the third was russian involvement. this i don't think had as much exposure to users as the misinformation campaign, but you know hundreds of thousands of people who saw the stuff
and it's super disturbing that what the russians are using facebook to help metal in the election. in this sort of unrolled the facebook really late and they really didn't come across to it until after the election, and begin talk about how they treated then. but, the second thing there was a big debate about facebook. at one point there is a meeting that i described as a weekly show meeting. in the person really who was running the meeting was this guy named joe kaplan, who was the head of the dc operation the lobbying operation, and his dna was he was a republican. a lot of people in the washington office felt, he felt his job was to carry water for the republicans. hit a very close relationship with cheryl, he used to date her in college. and cheryl was back from a
tough. to recover from and her husband died. it was a terribly tragic situation, i think it shifted where people who took responsibility during that period including kaplan, were pretty much operating with more authority. and he won the argument that they shouldn't do anything about the misinformation. he said, that would be insulting the playing field one planet eight by misinformation. that was wrong. the plane was tilted by the misinformation and he was leveling it by taking it out. but he won the day, and the rest is history. >> interesting. let's talk a little about the revelation post 2016, you get deep into the scandal that was very interesting. how did you view all those characters? >> well i think the cambridge analytic i was an amazing story in and of itself.
i tell it like a story that was something out of a clown show. it was in some ways a comedy, and some cents on facebook's part. but you know, there were crazy characters involved. and that led it to the biggest scandal in that narrative and facebook history. you could argue whether other things that facebook did were more damaging, but this was the one that got the most traction. and i believe that that scandal really happened, not in 2018 as it was older but in 2016, or 2014 when it got the information may be 78 million facebook users. but in 2010, when facebook gave away information about users to developers. and that meant when facebook users signed up to use some
survey or application from a third party that was on facebook, they would get that developer, or the server maker, not only the information of that person who signed up but that person's whole shoal shoal network elder friends. so you could argue that the user signs up for the survey is responsible, because he or she clicks off on some little bullet saying.we had a look at your information. but they gave information on their friends they had no idea that was happening. people in facebook, again, they complained to zuckerberg. they said this is too much. and zuckerberg went ahead and did that and did it anyway. he that way to dig into facebook's database open it up in 2010. the close of that loophole and to one he 14, but by then
cambridge and to look could get access to that because as there was this one researcher from cambridge university can get that information by doing this seemingly innocuous survey. so that's how the information fell into the hands of one of the biggest funders of the far right to then of course ted cruz then dental trop used in the election. >> are you worried that facebook could have an effect on november? >> well facebook is going to have an effect on november. >> let me put it merge medically, are you worried that they could reelect donald trunk? >> well, again, which parts of it are going to be used? i think that the biting campaign is going to use facebook better than the clinton campaign did. they're not going to dismiss it like that. they know what happened in 2016. but, the trump campaign has a
big head start and already collecting the data from 2016 and building on it over the last four years. now, facebook is indicating that they are considering cutting off politico advertising. that happens, that's going to be a giant win for the trump campaign because the trump campaign because they had this big lead that the biting campaign could never close if they stop campaigning. >> you know cutting off clinical advertising or labeling it, this is all part of the deeper conversation which i think is an economic conversation about these terms about the black box. about that there's incredible information as symmetry on either side these transactions. that is something that i tried to look at deeply in my own book because remind me so much of the financial sector 2008. because you have these large entities have always information and at the person on the transaction does not have this amount of
information. and markets don't work properly or fairly if there's not equal asked access to information. a shared understanding of the transaction or value of the exchange. how do you think about that. and let's start to delve a little bit into the coming, the possibility coming and regulation of these firms and how they might play out. >> great, well, zuckerberg says a lot that it's not money that motivates me. and you know obviously, facebook's financials are important, i think he sees it as a way that facebook and it continued to grow and maintain users. that's was important to him. basically dominating the social media space in the same way that augustus caesar dominated in his era. so, to do this the advertising
model is the way that that makes it. there is when zuckerberg got invited to congress and worn hatch said you don't charge money, how come you make going to dollars? senator we run ads. and facebook says, that these ads are good for people. because we know a lot about you and we can show you relevant ads which are things that you like to see and then can be of service to you. and in some cases it happens, sometimes she'll be in facebook and they will send you an ad for something that is tailored to the things that you like. that you wouldn't have known about otherwise, and you my value. but they also know so much about you that advertisers can use that information to sort of probe your weak points to manipulate you. and that is something that people don't want.
but that is part of facebook. and that's where things run into problems. the people learn about that they become alarmed about that. and i think that's the way the tramp trump campaign used facebook and 2016. and i think that's a political advertisers who would one use facebook. in if they feel if you have an underlying bias they are going to exploit that to try to maybe instill some fear into you to get them to vote for their candidates. you know it's interesting. >> i want to pull the lens way back to connect a lot of dots politically and technology based. i sometimes feel that when we talk about 2016 and monopoly power intact, and the evolution of silicon valley from the mid- 1990s and onward, all roads lead back to sheryl sandberg. but she remains i wouldn't say
a teflon figure, she certainly taken some and got some criticism, but boy is she good at not lying and being in the spotlight. and yes, but from a close reading from your first book, she was right there in the middle of develop ad cents. that was the golden goose that created and helped to monetize targeted advertising and really was sort of the basis as what we might now call surveillance capitalism. she then took that to facebook, and helped perfected there and so i'm really struck and i have to say rather cynical when i say her in particular and all of her many congressional testimonies when they are confronted with this or that your latest scandal we couldn't possibly have known. we've been the best we could. anybody who's read your book, or how the chief economist
about how google economist said it, the playbook is all there. she would be blaming cheryl moore? she's also the connection with the clinton administration, neoliberalism, winner take all economics that were talking about now. >> certain at least she was a major participant in that. in particular in the business model. i actually found someone who was with cheryl the day of her orientation. when you go to facebook and year and on the boarding process and you're in this meeting and usually for many years it was chris cox who was an early employee of facebook and i think he was the person who would probably take over the facebook if marcus after berg left a ceo. he gave a speech to inspire
people and when cheryl was on the onboarding session it was kind of unusual because she was come again to be the chief operating officer during new employee orientation. the after say a few words and she talked about how facebook had previously been about discovery because of brand ads and it wasn't like google where you expressed your intent to search for something. i want to buy something in this category in the google would know that because you were searching for it and would give you a much more targeted targeted ad. and she thought that facebook who go there to that they can know enough about you that they can have enough data about you to do brand after citing and other advertising. and that's what she filled. in other things like that which she got more and more information so it's not just your behavior on facebook, to
facebook throughout the web. and the information would be recorded and they would get a bigger better picture of you. she was the person in charge of lobbying washington. they made a deal of mark and cheryl early on that she would take charge of basically all the things that zuckerberg really did not want to do. that included lobbying in washington, policy stuff, and the business model which cheryl took over. so definitely, she is responsible for big chunks of facebook. and i think sucker book is responsible. i think that he responded probably an error that he did not monitor that stuff work closely. because when things went awry in that realm and a lot of things that were talking about during the election were in that category it was below his radar.
he wasn't able to marshal the resources when he was unable to fight back. cheryl of course was formally chief of staff. >> of larry summers who is the biggest economic advisor in the clinton campaign the architect of a lot of deregulation of the financial sector and what we've been in the financial sector, and what really has been done in the tech sector which really has been let's keep the market opens at the big get bigger. it's great for america to have more thai giant software companies. yes at a metalevel there was not a lot of awareness or not a lot of admission can be a software developer. begin having an economy, and facebook is of the best example, but you can't have a multibillion-dollar process with millions employees. that conversation particular with the bite in it
ministration, seem to be coming to the floor. in your book you seem to go back to look back at some of the regulatory battles that facebook had waived the fcc in 2011 so far it seems that the tech companies in jail have been able to be better and go off and maybe go off and get their hands lapse but they get to do whatever they want. in terms of getting biggs, stepping on competitors, buying up competitors before they actually become real threats. how is that going to play on the future you think? >> will i think in the 2016 election which turned things for facebook they went into a reputational swan dive after that. and it took them a long time to really understand what was happening. in 2017 was also the year that while this was happening, people were criticizing facebook more intensely that he went on this pretty tone deaf to work of the 50 states.
>> did you on that with him? >> i didn't. but i did connect with him on a couple points in the tour. had a long interview with in the kansas with him i think. towards the end in the fall. it's, you know, that was a moment to not just a moment for facebook but sort of facebook sort of drag down the whole tech sector with them because facebook became the fit poster child for wait a minute. look at all the power these companies have what can we do about this? we don't like this. and so that sort of tech lasher got underway because of that. that was a motivating factor in that, and that's why the regulatory forces that you're talking about are pretty serious now both from the antitrust side, the fdc side, and the congressional side.
the people that are looking closely about doing something about powers of tech companies including facebook. >> is interesting to know, just today in the last couple of days, we've had a bunch of really major transatlantic rulings around tech. so the european union was trying to get apple to avoid tax dodging in ireland, they weren't able to push that case through. we've just had state harbor, which is short of this data sharing between the eu and the us. that's off the table now. some of this simmering war about how we're going to do tax transatlantic leak, some of that is down to this particular administration, but it also seems to biggs these x to essential questions. how tech is going to work and what the value is around to governing tech is going to be. it's as if were going to be moving towards you the us europe and china may be going to different directions.
and so the major and advantage of these things to cross borders and grow exponentially. what is this new more fresh old world mean to them. >> yet the challenge facebook is very concerned about tick-tock. i think if facebook were constrained and sort of these geopolitical situations it would doing all of it could do to buy tick-tock. and they wanted to release their own version of that and it had mixed success trying to emulate competitors. they have better success in buying competitors and integrating them into that facebook family. so, it is a problem for facebook but when you've got such a big chunk of the world's population, like you say there is this network effects, that is very difficult to dislodge.
>> it's interesting i room and remembering about a year ago at a senate hearing in which, i think it was a reporter, that ran up after mark zuckerberg left his desk and looked at his notebook. and he was being asked if anybody asks you about how how china or a break up of facebook, just say we are the us national champion we need to be kept big in order to compete with those china. think that's fair? >> i think it's certainly an argument that plays or could plate but, i think it shouldn't affect the weight look at facebook. we shouldn't say facebook should be able to get away with more because were worried about china. >> interesting. i want to ask you a personal question about how kind of your process on the book, how you report, maybe you could start with the fact that you said it took you a year to get
permission to do this. the way that you did anyway what was that like? >> so when i undertake a project like this, and i did a very similar thing with google, i think that you get the best information by talking to your subjects. and talking to them quite a lot. and i found out that was really useful in the google book, and i wanted the same access in this facebook book. an access meant that they would give me free reign to talk to anyone i wanted to in the company and be able to use it for the book. no strings attached with that, they didn't get to approve anything in the book, they didn't get to read the book into a was already printed, i think it was already week or two before the book was released to the public that i let them look and see the whole thing.
i did fact check the book and i promised them that i would. which i would've done that anyway and i hired several fact checkers to make sure that we were making errors. and things that people said, they actually said it was a question of saying you know, to trust me. something you should you not just for me but because you're so important you owe it to history. and in part, because that resonated and in part because i've been covering facebook for a long time i had a good relationship with them. with zuckerberg, sandberg, with elliott schrader who was the head of policy and who actually worked with on the google book. and they said okay. >> what was the most surprising thing you learned? is somebody who's been deep in this topic for decades really. >> i think it's interesting how facebook was shaped so
much by zuckerberg personally. and how well he managed himself throughout his company. i don't know if you visited facebook, the campus. but you go there and there's a whole lot of buildings, the main big buildings that are designed one is a quarter-mile long, and others to think there's gonna be a third soon. they will be all connected on the roof and you can take a walk in it for liquor walking outside in the garden because the foyers on the roof. there's always posters and there's this thing called this analog research lab where people look at slogans on posters. many them taking things that zuckerberg says. it has this cultlike aspect to it where he's able to get across what he wants to throughout the whole company. it is a culture to itself.
the motto for a long time was move fast and break things. they realize that a certain.that's to break things probably didn't play well from a pr standpoint so they changed it to move fast with stable infrastructure. but to break things really was the way they did operate. it's literally referred to code. you move fast and if you took down the code base then the website if it didn't work for a little while you could just reboot it because with new web tools zuckerberg grew up with he understood that it is only matter if you have a bug in the code because unlike microsoft word for instance you don't have to wait months for the new version the new version comes every 15 minutes. but, metaphorically you could argue that they did move fast
and break bigger things. some people say democracy, i think that's an overstep maybe, they definitely broke discourse to a certain degree. >> well it's interesting to because move fast and break things is in some ways, and the post- covid world, is kind of the antithesis of where business is going. there's a lot of talk right now about moving from a world in which companies are all about efficiency, and companies like facebook or the apex of that. it's all about being frictionless. very few employees growing scales on and very quickly thanks to technologies. when you're moving into a conversation about resiliency, which is everything from really good corporate governance and some people question the governance of facebook and whether zuckerberg shifts much power, to the social corporate compacts. to just to the wealth of the vast wealth of these companies and should that be shared?
what would you say that? and what is the conversation in facebook about that? >> will i think what is startling is the depth of the conversation within facebook about that. for the first time, facebook finds itself particularly zuckerberg bergen decision-making, is at odds with substantial people at the employees. it used to be that the idea, a leak coming from the weekly q&a aches that mark zuckerberg did where you could ask him anything and he would be very frank with his workforce about what he thought was going on. a leak was unthinkable. that wouldn't happen, and now it's routine. he has to assume that anything he says, not only might be leaks, but the whole q&a might be taped and linked in that actually happened. i got to the.to where recently some of the employees that a virtual walkout, had to be virtual because they're
working from home, but they stopped working in protest of the policies that he had about political advertising. and that's unprecedented in that company. so i think, that is properly bigger than regulators, bigger than competition, that is alarming for zuckerberg. he is a long-term thinker, he thinks ahead. he spent a couple of billion dollars of a virtual reality company because he thought that was going to be the competitor in ten years from now. and he wanted to own that technology. so if he doesn't get the best engineers, the best ai people, the best everything, he can't fulfill that vision. he can't compete in the years to come. so he have to be very worried if he loses his workforce, and they feel that facebook isn't a good and moral place to work
for. >> that's interesting, because a lot of critics have said it's not regulators or even the marketplace that will curb these companies, but the employees. because it's all about human capital and who can get the best engineers to work for them. there was a piece recently, a former vp of product development of facebook, and information he's put up some really interesting ideas about this coming battle between really the virtual world in the physical world. and this is sort of about the transition that were now going through in the covid era. it's kind of overnight. we know we were going to be much more digital, much more virtual. in accounting it is made up of tangibles, not things that you could touch and feel, but that's no happen overnight. in these two worlds come with different governing principles. it seems to me that facebook is a really good and calculation of that, it's
about decentralization. ironically, centralization is you have this very powerful leader of. it's about being prompt, transnational, about kind of the opposite of the mainstream clinical conversation were having now which is very much about the nation's sake. what is facebook tell us about where the world is headed? >> will i think that's a great question. as you say, the virtual aspect when you are on facebook you are in a virtual world. people talk about their friends and your social is something that is not based necessarily on people who you spend a lot of time with physically the same place with. you may even have close friends that you've never met because they are part of your network on facebook. and as facebook tries to
expand the ways you come in contact without and your virtual world becomes your world, and as you say, it's sort of keyed up for this age, you're not supposed leave the house much. and that's important, but you mentioned something else in terms of governance. i think facebook is trying to respond with that by doing things like it's oversight board, which is forming. which in certain very limited cases, this board will have the ability to overrule the ultimate decision-maker, mark zuckerberg, on content decisions. what individual piece of content can come up and come down. and the board might even be able to make a suggestion that is adopted about facebook's policies. this remains to be seen. it's a pretty long time for this board to actually be set
up and start to making rulings. i think that around the time 2018, not long after, he severed think a lot about governance and cad conversations with him during the course of the book. at one point he was thinking a lot about governance. ask him about that. he had did a lot of thinking about it and he is a sponge for information. he contacted people who were experts on governance and gathered them for dinners at their house at his house and had conversations with them so he could learn more about that. so i think he's trying to think ahead of the curve on that as well. >> interesting. where do you think facebook is headed in terms of going into other industries? we've already seen them try to develop their own currency with libra, which i frankly think and concept is a great idea but i wouldn't trust
facebook to i rather see some coalition of global social brings to do this. but it's interesting because it's pushing the boundaries of where were going. facebook may not be the right player to run it. where else are they going that we should be watching? >> i think that commerce and currency. they haven't given up on the idea but they've had to scale it back. and i think, they really tried to ram that through their currency idea and the face of incredible skepticism about the company. they tried to say well were sitting at this neutral organization, literally in switzerland. almost as symbolic of their neutrality that were not going to be controlled. they created it and the people who were going to take advantage of it the most. i think that virtual reality or augmented reality will be
very important for facebook as time goes on. were all waiting to see what people are saying is inevitable. the idea of getting information through these, you know lenses these things that the virtual world literally will bring up to her eyes. and as more and more of what we do becomes virtual, facebook wants to be right in the center of it. >> we've only got about four or five minutes left, so let me ask you a couple final questions. you know, this conversation about children and social media has really taken off in recent years. i mean facebook actually, i think kids think it's a little old-fashioned now, a lot of kids do. they moved on to whatever they're using. should we worry, and do you worry about the effect of these technologies on kids brains, on their socializing.
i had a really interesting conversation with the teenager , i was doing a birthday party for my dad and i kinda wanted it to be private but then i felt like a fight didn't put the video on facebook or on my other feats that it warily when the real. it wouldn't exist. fascinating way in which they change the nature of reality. >> right. you know facebook as you mentioned, is not to the social network of choice of younger people, but instagram which facebook lot we haven't really talked much about facebook purchased and made. but at the time they offered a billion dollars to this company and is one of the great burdens of all time. it's still super popular among young people and influences our culture and it still at the center of it. and as you said, it's real isn't real or the toy take a picture of it on instagram. i think though it's tough to
tease out how much of it rests at the feet of these big companies and how much of it is i wouldn't call it natural evolution, but in evan inevitable evolution of this kind of technology coming into being. if that wasn't for facebook founded by mark sucker book, i think there would be something like it's founded by someone else. the idea was mere he does manage to do it better. the ubiquitous internet, the activity, global devices, these things just beget the kind of social networks that we have now. in the kind of products we see with instagram and what happened in tick-tock. they're even going to be part of our lives anyway, were on this course. this is sort of my subject way before facebook started. i've been writing, i guess for decades now, about this transformation of the digital
world on the way humans live. and this is one piece of it, but it's massive. it's redefining who people are. so to me, this facebook book is just one chapter of this bigger story which i think is a story of our times. this giant transformation and i've been lucky to get kind of a front row seat to this major change. >> you really have indeed. i try not to use social media too much, but i'm going to give your book a thumbs up! it really was terrific. last thought, anything i haven't asked you or anything you will leave readers with? >> will i think, what i tried to do in the book was also tells story. into me, there's just a great story to this very unusual person. developing something in his dorm room and then very quickly accelerating it. you know when zuckerberg says
hey you can't blame us because we couldn't have anticipated this in a dorm room. within six months it was a set up in silicon valley being advised by some of the world's best minds. how that and how he uses the forces and i talked the internet and other things to accelerate to make this a presence in such a presence in our lives were as some impulses he had, which might've been considered idealistic and might've been considered to be kind of like augustine caesar took him to a place where he was in a way a stranger in a strange land. and as the object of really intense criticism. and i finished the book with a couple of interviews with him. i did and we got to a level of candor that it don't think a journalist is got to before. i used this notebook that i discovered that he had used in the 2006 to ellen facebook. he had destroyed the notebook,
but i managed to get copies of pages of it. and i want it showing him his own work envisioning facebook. and i feel he kind of melted when he sought, and he asked to see a had a copy on my phone. back in those days when things are simpler, when he had a small company and nothing but dreams. another reality he has is much broader and more complicated. >> will, they aren't steve steve. maybe the isr on pass you over. they're still on yale and i feel they still are on you. it's been great to talk to you, hope we get to do it again sometime. >> thinks electric questions.