Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently appeared in a hearing in the European Parliament. EU legislators wanted to re-create a similar situation than the hearing conducted in the U.S Congress. Once again, Zuckerberg found himself at a public trial, being used for the self-aggrandisement of politicians. Why does nobody appreciate the value created by Silicon Valley giants?
The implication of guilt
During the Facebook-hearing at the European Parliament, Zuckerberg was sitting opposite from the political group leaders. Just like the multiple hearings in the U.S. Congress, the scene looked more like an interrogation than constructive hearing. This substantiated itself during the questioning: politicians were more interested in political point-scoring than actual debate. The rooms were filled with snappy zingers instead of conversation about the technicalities of privacy policies. In the eyes of many political leaders, Zuckerberg is guilty of massive breaches of trust that cannot be forgiven, and need to be met with massive regulation.
But what is Zuckerberg really guilty of?
Chris Kavanaugh wrote a great piece on Medium, explaining “Why (almost) everything reported about the Cambridge Analytica Facebook ‘hacking’ controversy is wrong“, in which he elaborates on the wildly exaggerated claims from Cambridge Analytica, which relativse the effectiveness of Facebook targeting.
But let’s presume that Facebook is to “blame” for the swaying of an election into one direction or the other? So what?
Much like the European model of the press emboldens newspapers to have political leanings, and making those perfectly visible in their editorials, online platforms can be favourable towards a certain political ideology, even if they only do it for money. In fact, the politicians complaining about this whole situation are notably those who believe that they suffered from it in their respective campaigns.
They blame the medium for their loss, much like the Catholic church blamed the emergence of the printing press in the 15th century for the competition of the protestant and calvinist movements in Europe. Had the Catholics consistently cracked down on the printing press, then we’d still live in the stone age. What they actually did: they utilised the printing press themselves in order to compete with the protestants. As a result, the inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg is considered a moderniser.
What Facebook does
But this isn’t about telling certain political parties to use Facebook for their own gain. It’s about asking the questions of the merits evolving out of the use of Facebook. Let it be said loud and clear: because of Facebook, friends have been made, couples have connected, jobs have been found, old friends reunited. People have found cool events, joined groups with like-minded people, or made phone calls in emergencies or with people whose number they didn’t know. We often talk about cyber-bullying, and what we can do to avoid it, but how often to we recognise the friendships made or those which have been nurtured through Facebook? We are eager to find conflicts created through social media, and rarely recognise those that have been avoided through it.
But the largest indicator for the manifested efficacy of Facebook is its user rate: billions of people use Facebook daily, because it is a useful tool that makes us more communicative, connected and informed. If any politician had advanced the lives of this many people, we’d be drowning in statues of this person. But in contrary: we often worship the unproductive and those who prevent creation from happening, instead of glorifying those who improved our lives.
Mark Zuckerberg is a nerd, with questionable social skills and an odd way of giving presentations. But there is no nerd that has improved your life quite as much as he did. And yes, that includes the guy who fixes your computer.
This article was first published by Freedom Today.
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