by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It’s not Zuckerberg’s fault that he has suddenly been deemed on the wrong side of history, but the Cambridge Analytica blowup is bringing a useful spotlight on the most sanctimoniously self-regarding large company in America. Facebook can’t bear to admit that it has garnered the largest collection of data known to man to sell ads against and line the pockets of its founder and investors.
The problem isn’t that Mark Zuckerberg is a businessman, and an exceptionally gifted one, but that he pretends to have stumbled out of the lyrics of John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” To listen to him, Facebook is all about connectivity and openness — he just happens to have made roughly $63 billion as the T-shirt-wearing champion of “the global community,” whatever that means.
It’s this pose that makes him and other Facebook officials sound so shifty. In a rocky interview with Savannah Guthrie of the Today show last week, Sheryl Sandberg was asked what product Facebook sells. “We’re selling the opportunity to connect with people,” she said, before catching herself, “but it’s not for sale.”
Something or other must be for sale, or Facebook is the first company to rocket to the top ranks of corporate America based on having no product or profit motive. Guthrie, persisting, stated that Facebook sweeps up data for the use of advertisers. Sandberg objected: “We are not sweeping data. People are inputting data.”
Uh, yeah. That’s the genius of it.