I’ve been thinking about the specter of members of Congress grilling Mark Zuckerberg recently. And I’ve been thinking about how absurd that was.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think of Zuckerberg as a “good actor”. As far as I can tell, his position is essentially amoral: Facebook is in the business of maximizing its profits by selling ads.
As CEO of Facebook, he will likely take whatever course of action best furthers that agenda. This includes whatever actions (like politely testifying to Congress) which succeed in portraying Facebook as “the good guys.”
But here’s the odd thing: Zuckerberg is quite open about his essentially venal agenda. He does not hide the fact that his loyalty is to his shareholders, and that advertisers — not the general public — are his customers.
Yet Congress does not have such a clear sense of itself. This is the same Congress which passed a law last year which gave Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner fairly unfettered rights to go through your entire web history without your permission, gathering all of that info for monetary gain.
Their argument (this is so stupid that I’m having trouble believing it even as I type this) was that Google and Facebook do it, so why not Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner? Of course the answer to that is very obvious:
You can go through your life perfectly well these days without using either Facebook or Google. But unless you are extremely unusual, you cannot go through life these days without access to the internet.
Was the Republican majority that voted for that horrific policy cognizant of how stupid and misguided it is? Were they simply snowed by slick industry lobbying? Were they paid off by the telecoms to vote in a corrupt way?
My worry is that the real reason is just that they are stupid and ignorant. And if that is the case, then what are they doing trying to get the best of Mark Zuckerberg?
Oh right, I remember now: They were being idiots.