Need to ‘share’ cre­ated Face­book mon­ster

The Sentinel-Record - - VIEWPOINTS - Ruben Navar­rette

SAN DIEGO — At the risk of be­ing “un­friended” by mem­bers of Congress, there was a lot not to “Like” about the leg­isla­tive branch’s as­sault this week on a cer­tain so­cial me­dia site.

Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg sat for hours over two days in sep­a­rate hear­ings be­fore House and Se­nate com­mit­tees. The 33-year-old took ques­tions from dozens of law­mak­ers — in­clud­ing many se­nior cit­i­zens who didn’t seem to un­der­stand how the site works.

I won­der if this was what it was like for my par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion, when folks wrung their hands and wor­ried them­selves sick in the 1950s over this new-fan­gled abom­i­na­tion called “rock ‘n’ roll.”

I’m go­ing to tell you what the Face­book hear­ings were re­ally about. But first, we have to be clear on what they were not about.

The hear­ings were not about the pri­vacy of Amer­i­cans, who vol­un­tar­ily re­lin­quish that pri­vacy when they choose to open a Face­book ac­count and then choose to post per­sonal data on their page to seek the ap­proval of fam­ily, friends and com­plete strangers. As Zucker­berg told law­mak­ers, Face­book’s users call the shots as to who sees what — if for no other rea­son than that they can vote with their “delete” but­ton and leave the site. They choose what to re­veal — and to whom.

Nor were the hear­ings about the need for Zucker­berg to apol­o­gize for the fact that a Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date suc­cess­fully used in 2016 much the same data-col­lec­tion meth­ods that were suc­cess­fully used by a Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in 2008 and 2012. The Repub­li­cans es­sen­tially beat the Democrats at their own game.

And nor were the Face­book hear­ings about get­ting clo­sure on the 2016 elec­tion. That won’t hap­pen. Nei­ther Hil­lary Clin­ton nor Pres­i­dent Trump will let the elec­tion go. Now con­gres­sional Democrats sug­gest that the rea­son that young peo­ple, African-Amer­i­cans, Lati­nos, work­ing-class whites and prob­a­bly some mem­bers of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion didn’t vote for Clin­ton was be­cause a sin­is­ter third party hi­jacked their Face­book data and cre­ated anti-Hil­lary pro­pa­ganda.

Speak­ing of apolo­gies, Democrats need to apol­o­gize to the Amer­i­can peo­ple for the orig­i­nal sin of pick­ing as their pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee such a flawed, un­ap­peal­ing and un­electable can­di­date. Af­ter all, does any­one re­ally be­lieve that we would be here at this ex­act spot if Clin­ton had been elected be­cause she re­mem­bered that there are vot­ers in Ohio, Michi­gan, Penn­syl­va­nia and Wis­con­sin? And what if Clin­ton had won the elec­tion and done so in part be­cause of suc­cess­ful min­ing of Face­book data? Demo­cratic law­mak­ers would be giv­ing Zucker­berg a medal — or at least a “thumbs-up” emoji.

I miss the ol’ days when lack­lus­ter pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls — whether they were Democrats like Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, or Repub­li­cans like John McCain and Mitt Rom­ney — owned up to their fail­ures. Nowa­days, losers blame ev­ery­one from the FBI to the Rus­sians to the me­dia to Face­book.

These hear­ings were about what most things in Congress are usu­ally about: power and money. Zucker­berg has plenty of both, and the law­mak­ers want their slice. And they will shame, flat­ter, threaten and arm-twist to get it.

As for power, Zucker­berg has an au­di­ence of more than 2.2 bil­lion monthly users and the abil­ity to call to­gether a cou­ple dozen of Sil­i­con Val­ley’s top tech­nol­ogy lead­ers at a sum­mit to dis­cuss best prac­tices — some­thing that, by the way, more than one law­maker asked him to do to ad­vance their pet causes.

As for money, Forbes and Bloomberg both put Zucker­berg’s net worth at about $70 bil­lion. He lost an es­ti­mated $15 bil­lion due to the Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica scan­dal. But he made back $3 bil­lion af­ter his first day of con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony.

Politi­cians need money like an opi­oid ad­dict needs pills. So each time one of them told Zucker­berg dur­ing the hear­ings that he or she looked for­ward to “fol­low­ing up” with him, that could’ve been the sig­nal. The bite is com­ing. This was no shake up. This was a shake­down. At least Tony So­prano did it with more style.

Again, we started this. We made Zucker­berg rich and pow­er­ful. All be­cause of our in­sa­tiable need to share stuff and show off our “per­fect” re­la­tion­ships, va­ca­tions, chil­dren and cui­sine. How much of it is real? They ought to call it “False­book.”

For some peo­ple, it’s not about shar­ing but stir­ring. They like to know they’re hav­ing an ef­fect on other peo­ple.

That re­minds me. Af­ter this col­umn runs, I’ll prob­a­bly post it on Face­book. Hope you “Like” it.

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