Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Zuck Gets the Senatorial Spa Treatment

I have to laugh at all the "Zuckerberg Gets Grilled!" headlines today, or the equally annoying ones that insist he was raked over the coals or pounded flat on the congressional cutting board.

If you actually watched all or part of Tuesday's Senate hearing pretending to explore what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg knew about Cambridge Analytica and when he knew it, you would have realized that he was being massaged like the tiny loaf of pasty white dough he so closely resembles. You knew he was in for a luxurious kneading when Sen. Jon Tester praised his tax-evading fortune as a "charity" before he got the first question.

You knew who really was in charge of this puff pastry lesson when Zuckerberg prefaced almost every evasive answer to a softball question with a condescending, "That is a really good question, Senator."

You could almost see Zuck patting each of their empty little heads as he took frequent sips of the US Senate-brand bottled designer water. It was the only sign that he was even remotely nervous. In fact, he must have felt like the Pillsbury Doughboy after awhile, because the over-hyped Grand Inquisition consisted of one ticklish finger-jab after the other. The disingenuous queries about whether he is afraid Facebook might become a monopoly were particularly amusing.

He got so confident, in fact, that he actually pulled a Hillary Clinton and credited himself with inspiring the #MeToo movement. This is really pretty amazing, given that he originally started Facebook as a hacking tool to shame and rate the bodies and faces of his female Harvard classmates. But no matter. The way he told it to the senators, he started Facebook because he wanted to make the world a better place. His only fault, he implied, was that he was just a wee lad of 19 when he had his utopian brainstorm in his humble dorm room. Callow youth that he was and still is, he never dreamed that his apps and his algorithms could be abused by "bad actors." If the old Coke theme song selling perfect harmony and a smile on the face of an earth e-moji had started echoing through the Senate chamber during his testimony, I would not have been surprised. 

Zuck's real ace in the hole was when he coyly let out that Facebook has been subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and that he will gladly be cooperating with the investigation of Donald Trump, and Russian meddling and other colluding things. Beyond that, though, he can't be more specific lest national security be threatened. But of course, he'll be glad to tell them everything he knows in a more secret setting so that actual people can be kept in the dark. Just as he is opaque about how exactly his apps and his algorithms suck up and misuse the information of billions of global Facebook users, he will be opaque about his own exalted role in both bringing down a president and helping the "intelligence" communities simultaneously censor users and spy upon them.

Not that he himself knows much of anything, of course. Callow idealist that he is, the details have escaped him. But he'll have "his team" get back to the Senate team. Because they're all on the same team. And we're just bystanders who are too stupid to read the fine print of the convoluted user agreements we sign as we sell our souls to the Silicon Valley devils.

As the New York Times reported in its own rehash of the "grilling,"
The technological gap between Silicon Valley and Washington was apparent when Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican of Mississippi, asked about internet regulation.
Mr. Zuckerberg explained that when thinking about regulations, government officials need to differentiate between internet companies like his and broadband providers, the companies that build and run the “pipes” that carry internet traffic, like AT&T and Comcast. 
The difference is at the heart of net neutrality, a hotly debated regulation that was overturned last year. The rules prevent internet service providers from favoring the flow of all internet content through their pipes.
“I think in general the expectations that people have of the pipes are somewhat different from the platforms,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.
“When you say pipes, you mean?” Mr. Wicker asked.
Zuckerberg must have felt like Julia Child trying to teach a first-day class of culinary students who'd never boiled an egg in their lives how to prepare Beef Wellington.

Another plutocrat has hit the jackpot. It's the Luck of the Zuck, or as it's more commonly known among the ruling class racketeers: "the house always wins."


Karl Kolchak said...

Indeed--Just the fact that he wasn't slapped in handcuffs by Federal Marshalls and led away to jail awaiting indictment and trial is all you really need to know.

Mark Thomason said...

"praised his tax-evading fortune as a "charity" "

That gambit has become increasingly common, among those rich enough to structure their fortunes with a staff, in fact needing a staff to handle so much money anyway. It is a popular alternative to keeping money offshore to avoid the tax man.

The charity gambit deserves more attention. The abuses are often in-your-face but still "praised" and covered up as if it is not what it so clearly is.

A leading example was Hillary, who not only hid her money, but hid money she took for access to her office as Sec of State, and then as the President-presumptive. Its open political use by such a figure, despite or perhaps because of the sources of the money, helps explain why the abuses are unmentionable. The exception of course is when Trump tried a half-baked version of the same.

This needs digging.

Erik Roth said...

The sidebar Sardonicky links have all I'll add here, but to help cut to the chase, check these:

“Facebook Doesn’t Sell Your Data. It Sells You”
Zeynep Tufekci on How Company’s Profit Really Works

How Facebook Played “Instrumental” Role in Rise of Burma’s Ethnic Cleansing Campaign of Rohingya

ACLU: Facebook Has to Do Much More to Stop Housing & Job Discrimination on Platform

Amid Privacy Scandal, Is Facebook Profiting off Data from Children & Teens?

Is “Sorry” Enough? Facebook Built Empire on Harvesting Personal Information with Little Oversight

Matt Taibbi —
Watching Facebook and Senate Hypocrisy in Real-Time
Zuck takes a mauling in a bipartisan pigpile – but the members seem more interested in influencing Facebook than decreasing its power

So, it's it your face, and in their pockets.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Ah Facebook: the best of apps and the worst of apps. FB let me reach out to the whole world; FB turned my life into trivia. They say I sold my soul to the Zuck. But to drop out once and for all? How can I abandon all my bffs, cold turkey? If I leave, l'll never again get as many e-cards on my birthday. And all those recipes. And those darling pictures of baby's first diaper, used. If I go, dear ones will suppose I crossed over to the dark side, suddenly an anti-capitalist bent on destroying the market economy. The world will unfriend me. But I must quit.

[Looks down, hits palm with opposing fist.] I can do this!

Mmmm.... No, I can't do this. Well, I won't do it as much; is that OK? Networking gives me meaning, roots and the cover of the herd. Absolutist unsubscribers stand apart, hypercritical like loners, misfits, the unfriended, loony boycotters trying to take down billionaires.

If only Congress would pass a law declaring social networking a crime henceforth, then we'd all have cover to log out with finality but without guilt, no one standing out. Then the weakest among us would gather in church basements for meetings of FB Anon, where addicts set up chairs in circles of confession (covered by ACA, provided detailed records are kept of what was said). Maybe kidnapping and reprogramming might work better? That's how parents pried us from cults when we were kids. Worked for me. I'd gladly submit to it all again. Somebody help me. Quitting FB for good on our own initiative, even after we realize how much we've been abused, is too much to expect of any human being.

Leila said...

Over at Dilbert, Scott Adam's Blog, I didn't put the his poscast on Zuckerberg because I'm a fast reader and I hate listening to people drone on and on, HOWEVER, a commentor noted that that Darpa had a program called "Lifelog" which was ended that same day Facebook started (2.4.2004). He posted an article on the closure of Lifelog from Wired Magazine: "Run by Darpa, the department's research arm, Lifelog's aim was to gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees, or does, the phone calls made, the tv shows watched, the magazines read, the plane tickets bought, the e-mails sent or received." The commentor noted that the DOD might have decided to let someone do the same thing as a private venture and avoid awkward Bill of Rights problems. I think it was an interesting comment, but I have no idea if the DOD recruited Zuckerberg to spy on everyone. They may just have decided to let him do the same thing, thinking if they needed to, they could just hack into it.