When Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter for The Social Network (a movie based on Mark Zuckerberg and the founding years of Facebook), won for Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes, he stated:
“I wanted to say to Mark Zuckerberg tonight, if you're watching, Rooney Mara's character makes a prediction at the beginning of the movie. She was wrong. You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a visionary, and an incredible altruist.”
Unfortunately, visionary and altruist no longer ring true, as Zuckerberg, who turns 29 today, is using his Facebook fortune to create and promote advertisements for fracking companies, the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, and for oil companies that want to drill in such delicate places as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge! And of course, his success as an entrepreneur has always been contentious, since we know that he's stepped over a lot of people, including his friends, stealing ideas and playing hardball, to get where he is today – one of the world's youngest billionaires.
While Zuck has been pissing people off for a long time – with his relentless efforts to monetize, commercialize, and corporatize Facebook, and social media at large – he's somehow gotten away with it all. A few years ago the Facebook suicide phenomena percolated and fizzled out. Hackers and internet enthusiasts pushed back against his moves to sell our personal information to advertisers – but Facebook just kept gaining users and money in the bank despite all his sneaky moves & the blowback he received form clicktivists, who probably just moved on to the next day's cause, in tune with the news cycle.
But now, Zuckerberg is moving boldly into the political arena. The new lobbying group that he co-founded with other technology executives in the Silicon Valley is called FWD.US. "Their first moves," writes Steven Rosenfeld for AlterNet, mark a resurrection of "old-school libertarian values: lifting immigration quotas for workers who could fill high-skill positions in technology manufacturing and information services, trashing health care reform and backing the Keystone XL pipeline."
This new political group (FWD US), funded by Zuckerberg's billions, is spending loads of money on anti-environmental advertisements – those that support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), fracking, mining, and pipelines. They're also promoting “enhanced” border security. The group’s forceful advocacy for expanded drilling and pipeline construction is surprising given Zuckerberg’s previous statements about clean renewable energy and its importance … but now he's sliding dangerously far to the political right and using anything in his fiscal power to defend this perspective – bigotry backed by billions.
As Rosenfeld writes: "Previous reports have speculated Zuckerberg is a secret Republican, and Fwd.us – whose founding was announced with an oped-ed by Zuckerberg in The Washington Post – is not behaving like the warm and fuzzy bipartisan entity that its website proclaims."
Things are already looking fishy. CredoAction, a group based in San Francisco, tried to buy Facebook ad space to criticize FWD.US' politics – but they were denied. Meanwhile, the group has been unapologetic, even as other technology executives have pointed out that the group's operations are far too secretive to their liking – such as backing GOP groups whose agendas have nothing to do with FWD.us' official stated aims.
Looking at his track-record, we can't expect that Zuckerberg's most recent moves will undo him or his monopoly on social media. This may not be his coup de grâce, but steadily more and more of us are realizing that he's not a guy to be trusted – especially with all the personal, political, private information he's got us all to voluntarily share through his platform. We all complain about Facebook constantly … now let's act on it. Here's a chance to divest, get off Facebook, and give the bastard a nice birthday wake up call.
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