King Zuckerberg

I’ve long argued that Mark Zuckerberg is the most powerful unelected person in the world, by far. The race isn’t even close and hasn’t been for a long time.

So, I was not surprised when Chris Hughes wrote, in his widely reported NYT Opinion piece:

Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

But I was not aware of this story:

The most extreme example of Facebook manipulating speech happened in Myanmar in late 2017. Mark said in a Vox interview that he personally made the decision to delete the private messages of Facebook users who were encouraging genocide there.

While we’re all happy that someone took action here, it raises a profound question: who should decide what we may or may not communicate (publicly or privately) with our fellow humans? If we keep our current trajectory, the answer will be “a very small number of private individuals, accountable only to themselves”.

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