By Robert Hackett and Adam Lashinsky
March 19, 2018

My favorite line in the dense and important New York Times article this weekend about Cambridge Analytica and its consumer-data bamboozlement of Facebook, came near the beginning. Facebook, America’s preeminent general-purpose daily newspaper wrote, “downplayed” for a week the scope of the data the Mercer-backed organization siphoned from it and “questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control.”

Presented with evidence to the contrary, Facebook changed its tune. Its lawyer called the attack a “scam,” professed to be shocked, shocked there was gambling going on here, and promised to “take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all.”

If this sounds familiar, it should. It is a pattern for Facebook. CEO Mark Zuckerberg labeled allegations that Facebook had been used by Russian baddies to help sway the 2016 election “crazy.” Then he found out what happened and promised to fix Facebook.

Among Facebook’s many problems is its arrogance. It assumes it is right, takes umbrage at any suggestion otherwise, then earnestly promises to fix whatever is broken.

I am no disinterested party here. Facebook for several years has condescended to an often gullible news industry by falsely promising to direct a firehose of revenue-producing readers its way—all while hoovering up what economics were left. Something equally important is happening now. Facebook is condescending to entire countries and is proving unable or unwilling quickly to right its wrongs.

A good first step might not be assuming it is right when queried about its potential malfeasance. Facebook’s recent record would suggest otherwise. Some humility, among other things, is in order.


I highly recommend the lead editorial and cover story in this week’s Economist, which delves far more deeply and intelligently into the China-versus-U.S. industry policy battle I flicked at last week. This superpower fracas defies easy explanation or facile arguments. The topic is important to every business everywhere, but particularly in technology. It’s time to dig in.

Adam Lashinsky


You May Like