Photo Credit: Leah Millis / Reuters

FaceBook Founder Defends Freedom of Access to Info

As I watched Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify to Congress in two televised exchanges this week, I was given pause to consider the meaning of it all. This is a milepost in our country’s online history, perhaps in how we view, regulate or classify the freedom of speech.

The two-day session was fascinating in that it revealed, in embarrassing detail, just how much many of our elected leaders do NOT know about social media, in particular Facebook. I could write paperback novel on how silly some of their questions were, and on the look of incredulity that appeared on Zuckerberg’s face so often during the Q & A. At the same time, you could see the Facebook King squirm a lot as well when questions got under his skin. I had to wonder whether it was real or just a show for the benefit of the public.

I have become skeptic when it comes to most things involving our government, the media and our corporations. Put them all in the same room and I become likely not to believe a word of what’s being said.

The Zuck took responsibility for the issue du jour, namely Cambridge Analytica’s usurping of 87 million people’s info for nefarious political reasons. He stated emphatically it was his company, he runs it, and its his responsibility. No fear. No hoodie either.

However, you could see fear begin to creep into his eyes when the questions turned to regulations and their implementation⎯and when the Senators brought up his various and sundry apologies going back to 2003. Many asked if there needed to be more regulations, laws and other legal ramifications concerning social media. You could see the wheels turning in their heads.

And to implement such oversight, one would have to institute firewalls to block information much like the “Commie” countries we always compare our freedoms to, such as North Korea. Such regulations might help calm some of the anger on social media, but at what level of anger do we start controlling? At what age do we cut off advertising to minors or to seniors?

Seriously, after a decade of more of hacks into every possible credit card company, merchandisers like Target and Saks, and all the other forgotten hacks described on the nightly news, who really believes they have any anonymity left? If you were online for GPS, or to pay bills, order merchandise, or just check your FB feed daily, then I have some heartbreaking news for you: You are not in control of any part of your information. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid for the use of that information. But to think you can retain privacy, or remain secret, or anonymous is just wishful thinking.

Am I naïve to think that Zuckerberg meant what he said about the reason for Facebook has always been for people to communicate with one another worldwide? Probably. A little. Of course it’s about the $$. It always is by the time even the potential for that many dollars gets thrown around. But in fact, we do use FB for communication, keeping in touch with our family and our communities. It allows for research of any subject, an advance few ever dreamed of in an earlier era.

It is the path millions of small businesses use to promote their products and services. And its entertaining as hell nearly every time you log on. So it’s not the platform that’s good or evil in my opinion: it’s people. People are using this platform to expose what it is that makes us humans. Facebook, and others, laid it all out for all of us to see. To regulate social platforms too much would stifle their use.

Zuckerberg had one essential response that shut down every question and every pointed attempt to unnerve or upset the pale young man and that is this:

You can sign out and sign off of FB. No more ads. No more political manipulation. No more hate speech. Simple. And he is right.

If you choose to log on and share online, remember that your office gossip is available not only to Aunt Sara, but every Tom and Dick and Harry Hacker who can and do read what you write, analyze what you share, and repackage it to influence your spending, voting, or the other choices you select in your daily use of your own free will.