Just when it seems Facebook can’t get more sinister, more Orwellian or more mercenary, it does — announcing its own branded global cryptocurrency.
Does this strike anyone else as terrifying? A company that has operated with impunity, under zero federal regulations, whose CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has been called — in a hapless act of political theater — to explain his shadowy practices before Congress, yet has never offered specific correctives to any of his outfit’s failings or overreaches or unintended consequences, makes its next big move this?
As declarations go, it’s astonishing. Zuckerberg is out for nothing less than dominion over us all.
If you’re one of the site’s 2.6 billion users, Facebook’s operators know where you are all the time, whether you’re logged on or not. They know what you’re buying, even if you’re in a brick-and-mortar shop. They scan photos you upload for biometrics. They mine your data and sell it to advertisers, but they won’t say how much of it, only that it’s a small amount, promise.
Facebook’s not the product. We are.
Fake news, authoritarian propaganda, abuse by genocidal forces or ruthless dictators, Russian interference in our most recent presidential election — whoops, says Facebook.
They do, after all, move fast and break things.
Facebook outsources the monitoring and taking down of dark materials — murders, child pornography and all manner of depravity — to contractors, and as The Verge reported last week, employees at a company called Cognizant were overworked, underpaid and ill-equipped to view such traumatizing content all day, every day, with even their bathroom breaks surveilled and limited.
Earlier this month, Business Insider reported that 68 percent of shareholders want Zuckerberg out as chairman. But that doesn’t matter, because Zuckerberg holds so much controlling stock that he simply ignored the vote.
And that is everything we need to know.
Facebook, like Amazon and Google and Apple, loves to sell its products as designed — no, dedicated — to the betterment of humanity.
“Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” Zuckerberg said of his mission in 2017.
A few weeks ago, in a scathing op-ed, Peggy Noonan wrote of being summoned to Zuckerberg’s office for an off-the-record meeting with other “conservative activists” to discuss their concerns.
Willing to attend only if she could also report, Noonan declined, and was later told by a Facebook employee that the actual plan was “to get the conservatives fighting with each other” and top it off with a speech by Zuckerberg that would leave them “bored to death.”
Attendee Glenn Beck, Noonan wrote, left a true believer, gushing over Zuckerberg’s “earnest desire to ‘connect the world.’ ”
There seems little to trust here. So when Facebook swears that its Libra cryptocurrency won’t be used to target ads and to definitely, absolutely keep your privacy intact — caveat emptor.
Guess whom Facebook is going after with this latest project? Poor people in failed states who have no access to traditional forms of banking, let alone wealth building. Surely the impetus here is humanitarian.
As to what institutions are going to back Facebook’s currency — which was created in secret, and which will eventually exist in the physical world as an alternative to US currency, accessed through its own ATMs — that remains unclear.
What is undeniable is Zuckerberg’s ambition. His power is presidential, if not more so, because it remains untrammeled, unregulated and borderless. If there was ever a moment to break up Facebook, as co-founder Chris Hughes and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have called for, it is now.