Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe
Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe by Roger McNamee
Published by Penguin Random House, Penguin Press, February 5, 2019
If you had told Roger McNamee even three years ago that he would soon be devoting himself to stopping Facebook from destroying our democracy, he would have howled with laughter. He had mentored many tech leaders in his illustrious career as an investor, but few things had made him prouder, or been better for his fund’s bottom line, than his early service to Mark Zuckerberg. Still a large shareholder in Facebook, he had every good reason to stay on the bright side. Until he simply couldn’t.
ZUCKED is McNamee’s intimate reckoning with the catastrophic failure of the head of one of the world’s most powerful companies to face up to the damage he is doing. It’s a story that begins with a series of rude awakenings. First there is the author’s dawning realization that the platform is being manipulated by some very bad actors. Then there is the even more unsettling realization that Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are unable or unwilling to share his concerns, polite as they may be to his face.
And then comes the election of Donald Trump, and the emergence of one horrific piece of news after another about the malign ends to which the Facebook platform has been put. To McNamee’s shock, even still Facebook’s leaders duck and dissemble, viewing the matter as a public relations problem. Now thoroughly alienated, McNamee digs into the issue, and fortuitously meets up with some fellow travelers who share his concern, and help him sharpen its focus. Soon he and a dream team of Silicon Valley technologists are charging into the fray, to raise consciousness about the existential threat of Facebook, and the persuasion architecture of the attention economy more broadly — to our public health and to our political order.
Zucked is both an enthralling personal narrative and a masterful explication of the forces that have conspired to place us all on the horns of this dilemma. This is the story of a company and its leadership, but it’s also a larger tale of a business sector unmoored from normal constraints, just at a moment of political and cultural crisis, the worst possible time to be given new tools for summoning the darker angels of our nature and whipping them into a frenzy. Like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, Roger McNamee happened to be in the right place to witness a crime, and it took him some time to make sense of what he was seeing and what we ought to do about it. The result of that effort is a wise, hard-hitting, and urgently necessary account that crystallizes the issue definitively for the rest of us.
Tip Cards from ZuckedBook
About the Author
Roger McNamee has been a Silicon Valley investor for 35 years. He co-founded successful funds in venture, crossover and private equity. His most recent fund, Elevation, included U2’s Bono as a co-founder. He holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.B.A. from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Roger plays bass and guitar in the bands Moonalice and Doobie Decibel System and is the author of The New Normal and The Moonalice Legend: Posters and Words, Volumes 1-9. He has served as a technical advisor for seasons two through five of HBO’s “Silicon Valley” series and was also responsible for raising the money that created the Wikimedia Foundation.
Articles & Author Interviews
Roger McNamee: ‘It’s bigger than Facebook. This is a problem with the entire industry’ published in The Guardian, Feb. 16, 2019
‘Mark Is an Authoritarian’: A Facebook Investor Sounds the Alarm About the Company He Helped Build article published in the New York Intelligencer, Feb. 12, 2019
From Facebook Investor to Vocal Critic: Roger McNamee on Getting 'Zucked' interview on KQED, Feb. 11, 2019
A Former Zuckerberg Mentor Pushes Back interview on WNYC-NPR On The Media, Feb. 8, 2019
Time.com January 17, 2019
By Roger McNamee
I am really sad about Facebook.
I got involved with the company more than a decade ago and have taken great pride and joy in the company’s success … until the past few months. Now I am disappointed. I am embarrassed. I am ashamed. With more than 1.7 billion members, Facebook is among the most influential businesses in the world. Whether they like it or not–whether Facebook is a technology company or a media company–the company has a huge impact on politics and social welfare. Every decision that management makes can matter to the lives of real people. Management is responsible for every action. Just as they get credit for every success, they need to be held accountable for failures. Recently, Facebook has done some things that are truly horrible, and I can no longer excuse its behavior.
The Atlantic – Technology
By Alexis C. Madrigal
Jan 16, 2019
After all the scandals and hubbub and congressional testimony and mea culpas in Facebook’s nearly 15 years of existence, one would think that its users would have a pretty firm grasp on how the business works.
Surely, users know that Facebook uses information about their behaviors and friendships to deduce a constantly updating list of their interests. This detailed information about people constitutes Facebook’s competitive advantage: If it knows what people like, it can put ads in front of them that are likely to result in purchases.
But, no—a new Pew study indicates that after all this time, a large majority of users still don’t know that Facebook compiles this kind of information.