The Blackout of Responsibility

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg might become an autocrat who is losing control over his empire. That is dangerous.

There are a lot of scary things in the bundle of internal studies, presentations and chats that whistleblower Frances Haugen took from Facebook’s headquarters. The cold-bloodedness with which the company prioritizes profit over user safety. The brashness with which the management ignores studies and suggestions for improvement from its own company. The insensitivity with which it gains and keeps children as users, because growth rates within the industrial nations are exhausted. What is really scary though, is not the realization that this calculated cynicism isn’t different than the one displayed by global corporations like Philip Morris, Volkswagen or Exxon — it’s the fact that Mark Zuckerberg, by contrast, is the sole ruler over a global infrastructure that he can no longer control.

A Global Infrastructure Is Not Just a Funny App

The main reason is that his company, according to Haugen’s reports and the impression that the “Facebook Files” convey, is constantly understaffed. Zuckerberg is used to that. From the moment he programmed the first versions of his social network in his Harvard dorm, he’s been trying to achieve the impossible with as little means as possible. In that regard, he is no different than other CEOs. This is the storm and stress mentality of the digital sector, which, starting from nothing, has achieved a lot over the last 20 years. Now that the planet is done, this state of mind has recently led to the urge to conquer space as well.

However, a global concern is no start-up, and a worldwide infrastructure is not a funny app. The responsibilities of Facebook have expanded and become more complex. The mix of the euphoria of success and the rush of doability, which helped the generation of founders with the accumulation of their first billion dollars many times, has a similar effect as four gin and tonics and a dose of cocaine while riding a sports car downtown at night. Truly amazing how fast everything is. It gets tricky, though, once you lose control.

An Update Was Responsible for the Outage. The Whole Facebook Company Needs One

When on Monday Haugen went public in interviews with the news show “60 Minutes,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, NDR and WDR, and the whole system of the company collapsed, it was as if destiny tried to prove to the world that this insight was true. The social network Facebook, the photo sharing platform Instagram, the chat system WhatsApp and the messaging app Messenger globally went down for up to seven hours. Apparently, an update in the technical bowels of the company went wrong.

Now Haugen will advise the U.S. Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission on how to potentially reform the concern. In its core, the company is a worldwide infrastructure that could serve the common good. She also warns against breaking up Facebook. This would subject a lot of users who depend on the service to the market forces that are intensifying the imbalance between American users and the rest of the world. If a conclusion can be drawn from the latest revelations, it is the following: The world should be less afraid of a Facebook that has become too powerful, but rather of one that becomes too weak.

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