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Mark Zuckerberg’s Blind Spot

This article first appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

When you’re in the daily commentary dodge some weeks are painfully slow. Others, like last week, are an embarrassment of riches. Deciding what to write about is like shooting fish in a clichéd barrel.

Never mind that the real world was consumed by the latest installment in what effectively is the Donald Trump reality TV show, otherwise known as the actual, profoundly serious business of our nation—but televised. The tech world, too, had plenty going on. Elon Musk defied then submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Washington investigated what anyone in Silicon Valley knows to be a truism, that the bulk of its senior managers lean left. And the founders of Instagram decided they had had enough of being a part of Facebook.

This news left me feeling nostalgic, in an embarrassed way, about a feature story I wrote about Mark Zuckerberg in mid-November, 2016, naming him Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year. There’s nothing overtly cringeworthy about this piece. It’s more what I didn’t see coming: Zuckerberg’s blind spot for how his company was being used to subvert democracy. I also could have given him a somewhat harder time for how Facebook shredded the business models of media companies stupid enough to think their future lay with turning over their content to Facebook.

Most telling though, is a graphic in that not-yet-two-year-old article that notes the importance of executives from acquired companies who have stuck around. At the time, the top dogs of Oculus VR, WhatsApp, and Instagram all were part of Zuckerberg’s brain trust. Each has since left their post.

Ben Thompson, though he not atypically takes a while to get to his point, has a smart take on this. Instagram’s leaders are product people, not true business executives, he argues. Thus while they were important, they ceased to be in charge the moment Zuckerberg’s company bought theirs. That’s business, and that’s life.

Zuckerberg will need all his considerable business acumen to keep these properties on track.


Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit begins today in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Almost too many influential women from tech to mention will appear onstage, including Microsoft CFO Amy Hood, Match Group CEO Mindy Ginsberg, and Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat. Check out the agenda here and the live feed on The conference concludes with a delightful and unexpected twist: Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi appears Wednesday morning with his mother, Lili, in their first interview together.