By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
April 1, 2019

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I guess if it’s Monday it’s time for me to tell you about the documentary I watched over the weekend that deals with an entrepreneur who faked it ‘til it caught up with them, with the newfangled tools of the technology world playing a supporting role.

This time it is FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a new Netflix film about a music festival in the Bahamas whose organizers were criminally unprepared for the customers they lured to a Caribbean island. At its root, this is simply an old-fashioned story of over-the-top hucksterism. Moreover, when the president of the United States gained acclaim for televising a fake business competition, it’s not really that surprising that this sort of thing goes on.

But the Fyre debacle also is yet another cautionary tale of how “social media” publishers need strict regulations, and not of their own making. (And they are publishers.) The swindlers at the center of this drama invited supermodels to a tropical island, filmed them cavorting, posted the images to Twitter and Instagram as an example of what the festival would be, and then promised “influencers” free lodging and admission to the yet-to-be-planned festival in exchange for promoting the event.

Old-fashioned media norms would have dictated truth in advertising. The shills weren’t just recommending something they loved; they were being paid for their support. But the move-fast-and-break-things culture of today’s Internet skipped that step, which was funny—until it wasn’t. The documentary is simultaneously amusing and horrifying, and it’s as compelling as its central character is pathetic.

In case you missed our link last week, the federal government has accused Facebook of allowing its advertising algorithms to be used for discriminatory housing schemes. It turns out this whole business of connecting the world allows a lot of bad behavior. Stricter rules clearly would help. CEO Mark Zuckerberg had some suggestions in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday. But things will need to get even stricter than Zuckerberg would like.

Adam Lashinsky


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