If you read one long, demanding article about the technology industry this week, make it Farhad Manjoo’s cover story this past weekend in The New York Times Magazine about Facebook. Called “Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug?” it delves deeply into Mark Zuckerberg’s non-linear journey toward understanding what his life’s work has wrought. Yes, Facebook has made it easier for us to communicate with each other. But Facebook also has made it easier for liars, hucksters, and other reprobates to trick us into consuming all manner of foul stuff—particularly fake news—that has a pernicious impact on society.
Through in-depth interviews with Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and all-powerful CEO, and others, Manjoo demonstrates how difficult a task Facebook faces in cleaning up its act. Making value judgements about “content” on its platform goes against Facebook’s core DNA. Trying to fix the problem is a Pandora’s box of epic proportions. Hiring humans to vet news, for example, inevitably will lead to charges of political partisanship—exactly what Facebook was trying to avoid.
This is all so important, of course, because Facebook (FB) has set itself up as the most powerful distributor and beneficiary of news, fake and otherwise. (Facebook prefers to the expression “false news,” by the way, some other guy having hijacked the other term for his own uses.) Eliminating the destructive material on its sites would be one thing. Acknowledging that at the same time Facebook is sucking dry the lifeblood of professional journalism would be another thing altogether.
While I’m praising The New York Times Magazine, I also loved this thoughtful piece about a TV remake of the beloved Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables. The only tech/disruption angle here is that Netflix (NFLX) is producing the series. The feature article is a good read.
I am excited to tell you about a new Fortune conference, the CEO Initiative, we will launch Sept. 25th in New York City with our colleagues at TIME. The invitation-only event, as well as extensive coverage pegged off Fortune’s annual “Change the World” list, will focus on how business can be a force for good. This isn’t about corporate philanthropy, per se, but rather about what it means for purpose-driven organizations to have a positive impact while pursuing profits. You can read more about the CEO Initiative here. Expect to hear much more in coming months.
You will notice below a new name attached to Data Sheet. As of today, Aaron Pressman, a Boston-based senior writer for Fortune, will be curating your must-read tech news for the day. I want to welcome him, as well as thank Heather Clancy for her able and enthusiastic stewardship of this daily effort.