The Fb engineer was itching to know why his date hadn’t responded to his messages. Maybe there was a easy clarification—possibly she was sick or on trip.

So at 10 p.m. one evening within the firm’s Menlo Park headquarters, he introduced up her Fb profile on the corporate’s inner programs and commenced her private knowledge. Her politics, her way of life, her pursuits—even her real-time location.

The engineer can be fired for his habits, together with 51 different staff who had inappropriately abused their entry to firm knowledge, a privilege that was then out there to everybody who labored at Fb, no matter their job perform or seniority. The overwhelming majority of the 51 have been similar to him: males trying up details about the ladies they have been excited by.

In September 2015, after Alex Stamos, the brand new chief safety officer, introduced the difficulty to Mark Zuckerberg’s consideration, the CEO ordered a system overhaul to limit worker entry to consumer knowledge. It was a uncommon victory for Stamos, one during which he satisfied Zuckerberg that Fb’s design was guilty, quite than particular person habits.

So begins An Ugly Reality, a brand new e-book about Fb written by veteran New York Occasions reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang. With Frenkel’s experience in cybersecurity, Kang’s experience in expertise and regulatory coverage, and their deep effectively of sources, the duo present a compelling account of Fb’s years spanning the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Stamos would not be so fortunate. The problems that derived from Fb’s enterprise mannequin would solely escalate within the years that adopted however as Stamos unearthed extra egregious issues, together with Russian interference in US elections, he was pushed out for making Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg face inconvenient truths. As soon as he left, the management continued to refuse to deal with a complete host of profoundly disturbing issues, together with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the genocide in Myanmar, and rampant covid misinformation.

The authors, Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel


Frenkel and Kang argue that Fb’s issues as we speak will not be the product of an organization that misplaced its manner. As a substitute they’re a part of its very design, constructed atop Zuckerberg’s slim worldview, the careless privateness tradition he cultivated, and the staggering ambitions he chased with Sandberg.

When the corporate was nonetheless small, maybe such an absence of foresight and creativeness could possibly be excused. However since then, Zuckerberg’s and Sandberg’s choices have proven that progress and income trump every little thing else.

In a chapter titled “Firm Over Nation,” for instance, the authors chronicle how the management tried to bury the extent of Russian election interference on the platform from the US intelligence neighborhood, Congress, and the American public. They censored the Fb safety group’s a number of makes an attempt to publish particulars of what they’d discovered, and cherry-picked the information to downplay the severity and partisan nature of the issue. When Stamos proposed a redesign of the corporate’s group to stop a repeat of the difficulty, different leaders dismissed the thought as “alarmist” and targeted their assets on getting management of the general public narrative and maintaining regulators at bay.