Mark Zuckerberg wants you to know that nothing can hold Mark Zuckerberg back. Unfortunately for him, the world doesn’t quite agree.
As the Facebook CEO addressed a crowd of developers gathered Tuesday for the annual F8 conference, he took pains to emphasize that he has a duty to keep chugging along — Cambridge Analytica be damned.
After calling out the greatest hits of “Russia interfering in elections,” “fake news,” “hate speech,” and “data privacy issues” (for those keeping track at home this last category includes, but is not limited to, Cambridge Analytica), the self-styled leader got to what felt like the meat of his message: I’m moving on.
“But we also have a responsibility to move forward on everything else that our community expects from us, too,” he declared. “To keep building services that help us connect in meaningful new ways as well.”
While that particular audience may have been receptive to his call to put this Facebook-generated mess in the rear-view mirror — after all, they are developers who depend on Zuckerberg’s platform — the world at large isn’t quite ready to forget about how badly Facebook screwed it.
Far from it. The UK Parliament, for one, has demanded that Zuckerberg show up to testify on his company’s “catastrophic failure.” If he doesn’t? Well then the next time he hits British soil he’ll be issued a formal summons.
What’s more, Facebook’s cavalier attitude toward user privacy — epitomized by it discovering way back in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica had user data, failing to ensure it was all deleted, and then only notifying users years later when The Guardian was about to publish a story — has helped to crystallize public opinion against the company. Google searches for “delete Facebook” hit a five-year high in March. And even within the company cracks have started to show in the form of internal leaks.
And while Cambridge Analytica is top of mind for many, allowing third-party apps to scrape user data isn’t Facebook’s only blunder of note. For the uninitiated, some other highlights: Facebook facilitated the fomentation of race-based violence, allowed for illegal discriminatory housing ads (even after being alerted to the problem), and just all around treated the privacy of its users with a disrespect that still manages to shock despite it long becoming par for the course.
But, remember, Zuckerberg wants to move forward, not look backward — especially when backward translates to inward.
“We’re all here because we are optimistic about the future,” he told the F8 crowd. “We have real challenges to address, but we have to keep that sense of optimism, too.”
Zuckerberg, of course, has plenty to be optimistic about. Despite the litany of self-inflicted wounds, Facebook has yet to truly see any damage to its bottom line. But that doesn’t mean he’s totally oblivious.
“This has been an intense year,” he told those gathered for his keynote. “I can’t believe we’re only four months in.”
Believe it, Mark. And, while you’re at it, take some time to come to terms with the fact that there are eight months left in 2018. If the world has anything to say about it they’re going to be long ones, too.