"Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe," Roger McNamee, Penguin Press, 336 pages, $28.
The dystopia George Orwell conjured up in “1984” wasn’t a prediction. It was, instead, a reflection. Roger McNamee, an esteemed venture capitalist, would appear to agree, at least when it comes to Facebook.
The planet’s fourth most valuable company, and arguably its most influential, has acknowledged dabbling in social manipulation. In 2014, the company set out to learn whether it could make its users sad and angry on purpose. It learned that it could.
When this astonishing breach of user trust became public, the company claimed it wasn’t a big deal, that many companies did similar things. It was, and they don’t.
McNamee argues that the tech company founded on creating human connection is now ripping American society apart and compromising our civic foundation, though not with wicked intent.
McNamee has a long and familiar relationship with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He counseled the CEO, then 22 years old, against selling Facebook to Yahoo for a billion dollars. McNamee also profited from this mentorship. Along with his venture capital firm, Elevation Partners, the author made a fortune off an early investment in Facebook, a subject about which he is now suitably circumspect, given his belief that Facebook, along with Google and other tech giants, now represents “the greatest threat to the global order in my lifetime.”
“Zucked” is thus a candid and highly entertaining explanation of how and why a man who spent decades picking tech winners and cheering his industry on has been carried to the shore of social activism.
NEW YORK TIMES