Talking Politics Guide to ... Facebook

How did Facebook get to be so powerful and what, if anything, can we do to take some of that power back? David talks to John Naughton about the rise and possible fall of Mark Zuckerberg’s social media monolith. 

Talking Points:

Facebook is a data extraction company claiming to be a social network.

  • If the service is free, your data is the product.
  • Advertisers, not users, are Facebook’s real customers.
  • How do we reconcile this reality with the fact that people value it as a public service?

In some parts of the world, Facebook has become the internet.

  • People who wouldn’t be able to afford data charges can access the internet for free via the Facebook app.
  • If you are a monopoly platform for information, what kind of responsibility do you have?

2018 has been a tough year for Facebook, but is it really vulnerable?

  • Investigative reporting has revealed the darker side of the social network.
  • So far, they’ve been pretty inept at handling these scandals.
  • This is creating a morale problem, which could affect their ability to recruit.
  • But the company’s services have inserted themselves into people’s daily lives.
  • We don’t have the right analytical framework for analyzing how Facebook does harm.

Facebook has become the corporate extension of Mark Zuckerberg’s personality.

  • He has absolute control, and this means that his vision dominates.
  • Zuckerberg appears to believe that the world would be better if everyone were on Facebook.
  • For Facebook, it’s all about growth. What if they embraced a more self-limiting strategy?
  • A massive revolt by a significant portion of people might shift the narrative and cause investor panic.
  • But it’s unlikely that Facebook will be out-competed. The barrier to entry has become too high.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Further Learning:

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here:

Set your alarms… for Sunday, when David talks to Ella McPherson about... For information regarding your data privacy, visit