I invested in Facebook. By 2016, I couldn’t stay silent. | Roger McNamee
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I invested in Facebook. By 2016, I couldn’t stay silent. | Roger McNamee


I never expected to be an activist. But I was raised in a family with really strong
values. I was born in the mid ’50s, my parents were
involved in the civil rights movement. And I grew up in a family that believed that
everyone should have an equal opportunity. And I was also raised in a family where they
believed that we all had a responsibility to be good citizens, to be engaged. And the real question in my life was: When
would my opportunity come up? It wasn’t like I was looking for it. It was more that there never seemed be anything
going on in which I could be a useful voice. So when I began my career, all of that went
into the back of my mind. But I still had a really strong value system. And I noticed, beginning in 2007, that the
values of Silicon Valley were changing. That Silicon Valley was moving away from the
value system of Steve Jobs and empowering users, to starting to view the people who
used the products as a source of economic value, not a beneficiary of it. And I had to pass on a series of companies
that I knew were going to be successful; it started with and Zynga and then Spotify and
then Uber, all of which I could have been an investor in practically at the beginning. I don’t want to be critical of those companies,
specifically. But for me, my value system said: I want to
be involved in companies where our values are aligned. And they were comfortable exploiting certain
populations. And I just didn’t feel good about that. And that’s what caused me to think that maybe
I couldn’t be an investor anymore. I couldn’t manage other people’s money if
I wasn’t willing to invest in the best that Silicon Valley had to offer. So that’s the backdrop for 2016, when I start
to notice things going wrong on Facebook. The thing is that I was convinced that Facebook
was different. When Mark started the company, he insisted
on authenticated identity, right? Everybody had to have an email account from
a school. And with that you got rid of trolls because
people couldn’t be mean and hide behind anonymity. They had to be willing to take whatever the
social blowback was if they didn’t behave well. And I thought that was the holy grail. And it never occurred to me that Facebook
would move away from that. But that’s what they did. And so in 2016, when I started to see things
going wrong, I eventually said, I can’t sit back and watch this. I was retired. The easy thing to do would have been to just
sit there and say, this is not my problem. I’ll leave it to young people who have an
economic stake. But for whatever reason, my value system kicked
in and said, this is my moment. There’s something really wrong here. I need to reach out to my friends. I thought Mark and Sheryl were the victims. I didn’t think that they were the cause of
any of this. And I wanted initially to protect them. The hard part came when I discovered, no,
they weren’t interested in fixing the problem. They wanted to treat it as a public relations
problem. Now I’m faced with a quandary. This is a company I’ve been involved in, not
from the very beginning, but from year two, or year three, I guess. They were two years old when I first met them. And if I was going to push back in public,
I was going to have to walk away from what was, I think, probably the most successful
investment I’d made in an incredibly successful career. And it didn’t take long to make that decision. I realized that there was a real risk that
Facebook had been used to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. It was almost certainly a factor in the Brexit
referendum in the United Kingdom. And who knew what else. I mean, we’ve since discovered it was a factor
in a genocide in Myanmar and in hate-speech-related killings in Sri Lanka and election interference
in many countries in Europe, maybe even turning over an election in Brazil with WhatsApp. But I didn’t know that then. What I knew was that I had seen something
I couldn’t live with. And I had profited from this thing. And I couldn’t very well sit back and do nothing,
given I’d been involved. I profited. And I saw something I knew wasn’t right. It was one of those moments where you have
to make a choice. If I wasn’t going to stand up on this issue,
what issue was I going to stand up on, right? This is where my value system comes into play. Is it just talk, or am I going to walk the
walk? Now, what did it mean? Most of the people that I’ve been most closely
associated with professionally are not comfortable with me anymore. Some of them say really awful things about
me, much of it completely not true. And I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that because I believe in what
I’m doing is right. And I believe that if Mark and Sheryl get
a good night’s sleep, if Larry and Sergey get a good night’s sleep, they’ll wake up
and realize, they’ll have an epiphany that they’ve been successful beyond their wildest
dreams. And the time has come to be the hero in their
own story. That the next billion dollars isn’t worth
anything to them. That they can do more good in a year by reforming
their companies than they could ever do with a foundation.

100 Comments

  • Leggo MuhEggo

    When I get out of Facebook jail for saying facts, I’m leaving it for good and selling my oculus. They aren’t too big to fail.

  • Bial Noug

    Ever heard of the #SatisfactionChallenge ? Funny video, a viral meme in Russia. I wanted to post about it on facebook, providing a vk link because there was not enough sources in the Western web. Not only was I unable to post (something in your post violates the facebook terms and conditions), but the whole post I had written was deleted (so that I could not retry easily, I guess).
    They should at least be honest when they ban something.

  • digiryde

    One of the problems with anonymity is people can and do lie and inflict great pain. Ond of the problems with a lack of anonymity is that people do lie and inflict great pain.

    The quasi-solution is to find the in-between point that where things can be said anonymously, but in certain needed situations, that anonymity can be breached. To do this would require changes to our world, the way we do things, the creatures we are that I am afraid are not possible at this time.

    The same problem applies to video editing, sound editing and so many other new technologies (or greatly improved technologies). The problem becomes how do you distinguish a lie from a truth? We have started to see problems with this, but these are just the first drops in an ocean of deceit and perception management that will empower those with the means to literally change eveyone's understanding of reality, to lie without being able to be caught. Troll accounts were simply the first step in a new world where nothing you hear or see that was recorded will be able to be trusted.

    How do we solve that?

  • 2 subs

    Zuckerberg has been selling peoples' data and exploiting their trust of his system since the beginning. You can't say you saw signs in 2016 and decided you were above it. You signed up for the same reasons as anyone else.

  • DrWex YouTube

    Rich white guys value-sharing for ?sympathy? aren't worth my time. Do something with your money and stop talking about how virtuous you are.

  • PROven sKILL

    How has Spotify exploited certain populations?? You can't just throw shit up and expect people to believe your word? What do you mean?

  • Hamza Bozbaş

    I totally agree on your values as much of the whole world would. But, If Facebook or other companies that you have mentioned behaved like what you said, they would have never been as big as they are now, never have reached out as many people as they have now. And that would change so many things that they maybe not only couldn't develop the technology that they have now but also they would not never force the world to change and update with them.

    Think of it like a hacker story. It is so bad if a hacker hack some of our systems that protect us, but If the hacker wouldn't do this, we wouldn't try to come up with another idea that will ultimately protect us. And never learn the things that we would otherwise. What you said totally true but we should always be thinking bigger than that.

  • Tony Ray

    Now apply that same mindset and moral and ethical standards to every product you see in the current economy that is fueled by the monetary system and carnality and is being used to cause so much destruction and kill the innocent. It is being used to control every aspect of every person's life . Every dollar you spend is a vote for your oppression . Look what it has become. You have two paths before you. One is going to require you to live a very meager life and content with what you need and the Peace of Mind knowing that it will be there when you need it. The other is going to require you to take a mark and give yourself over to such a degree that you will compromise your free will and possibly even your own conscious mind. 1 lives by faith and the other lives by fear. When you look at what the monetary system is being used for and how it is used to control you through commodities and bribes like Comfort convenient entertainment and distraction you start to realize that you are being controlled. That's when you should be asking yourself if you're going to take their deal. If you're not going to take their Mark then you better figure out how to get what you need without them and stop pulling yourself up to their table while claiming to have faith. You cannot be lukewarm and do both for neither will allow you to do so. You cannot have two masters. You will have to dedicate your loyalty to one or the other. Choose Wisely and choose quickly because it is at the door. You need to ask yourself if you will bow before the Creator or you will bow before the AI.
    Here is the Narrow Path that causes you to trust the father for your daily bread once again the way it was intended from the beginning.
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmXW73veIBJERb1CYry6RR9fh4jvgDghx

  • INERT

    "I'm a hero."
    This is what I hear.
    Yeah, FB is a corporation and is legally required to maximize profits at expense of all other considerations. Sucks. It's capitalism, brah.

  • Gospel of Sophia

    Actually, Mark is not the original inventor. He stole it from Leader Technologies. https://aim4truth.org/2017/11/21/facebook-unmasked-how-the-worlds-most-relevant-entrepreneur-was-screwed-by-zuckerberg/

  • The Pholosopher

    Roger McNamee just said a whole bunch of abstract rhetoric without giving any specifics as to the practices he thinks Facebook should reform.

  • ProtonCannon

    Oh look at mister "I AM HOLIER THAN YOU!"
    Capitalism is fundamentally built on exploiting people to the maximum degree. No matter how you are trying to hide it a mask it or disguise it the truth will always come out at the end.
    Billionaires do not care for anything else but to gain more billions and then even more billions. You are just a naive fool if you think some day they will just wake up and decide to do something else with their lives.

  • Petar Stamenkovic

    So what is the solution? 1984? Strict hate speech laws that are enacted by benevolent bureaucrats? Censor anything they dislike? Did I miss something in the talk?

  • GumCuzzler

    Mark is a sociopath. Most successful entrepreneurs are. He literally high-fived a person in VR while surrounded by flooded homes in Puerto Rico. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about genocides and democratic upheaval. I don’t think he fully grasps the human element of his own products. We’re just economic points of interest to him.

  • Fox

    Ya ? Well where was your integrity and your values when you decided to invest in a company that trade people's privacy ??! By understanding fb business model you cannot be this NAIVE to not see how fb is a threat to democracy and freedom of speech in the long run ?! Your beloved values just kicked in 10 years later…. It's unfortunate that money can't buy yourself a good conscience.

  • Zenn Exile

    Doing the right thing in Investment is illegal under United States Law. You have a fiduciary responsibility to exploit as many vulnerable people as possible for maximim profit. If you fail to meet this obligation you are financially liable.

  • Lorde

    If he really regret his investments, he should share his millions with the poor instead of pointing issues that everyone knows.

  • jeff meares

    Nobody cares about the how of the first million when it brings you immediately front and center making the world a better place.

    Sadly, that is an action item Facebook has passed several million times over by now. Corrupted by Data.

  • Alex F

    Much as I can't abide Facebook, to call it a contributary factor in Brexit is false as the Brexit demographic were least likely to use Facebook.

  • James Valaitis

    I respect Roger for recognising the issues with these social media companies despite his financial incentive to ignore them.

  • writerconsidered

    Effecting elections confirms several things. First propaganda works. Second the electorate is uneducated. Third advertising works. Forth there is no line of distinction between propaganda and legitimate political advertising. Fifth the electorate has to become educated and cynical including their own biases. Sixth this guy is pretty cozy in his wealth and stays clean from the dirty
    streets. He missed and is still missing what is really going on in main street America. We have real problems and facebook isn't one of them.

  • Rick Kasten

    McNamee has a great deal more to say on Sam Harris' Making Sense podcast. This video doesn't cover nearly enough terrible stuff that Facebook, Google, et al, have allowed to happen in the name of public relations over social responsibility.

  • Dashbshots

    After creating a facebook account to educate the surrounding communities about the huge amounts of air pollution being released from a fracking compressor station, facebook shut it down. I first got a message about suspicious activity on the account which was facebook being suspicious because at that point nobody knew about it. The facebook link said- "checkpoint block". So they created a Nazi like checkpoint after collecting all the other information just to try to strong arm me into giving my phone number too. Then blocked the account. It was about massive amounts of air pollution being released by the fracking industry.

  • T Andrew

    I can't wait to lay waste while getting obscenely rich, then lecture and critique the actions that give me my palace.

  • The God Emperor

    lol you're an old idiot…. thinking Facebook had any significant impact on the elections or so…. I don't even like most social media, but they didn't impact the election nearly as much as the mainstream media did. With so many of them making Trump seem like he had no chance it discouraged people from showing up who didn't like Hillary to stop Trump, also the fact they pushed Trump so much on their news it made people more aware of him than if they had remained more quiet.

    The media is to fail, the establishment's decades of fucking average Americans over for their own greed and people getting fed up and wanting to hit a "Fuck it" button that is Trump… they are to blame, not troll posts on facebook and memes. You old outdated idiot.

  • Deni Kotsev

    Stupidity and lies are useless when the detector is strong, and the detector can't be created without them. Regulations for lies are time wasting

  • Dan August

    "Be the hero in their own story." A happy ending would be nice these days with the big shots being so damn stubborn.

  • 3ICE

    Hey… I no longer have access to my school email. (Standard practice there, to delete old users before next term starts.)
    Do you think then, that I should simply lose facebook access?

  • Norin Radd

    I give him credit for walking away from millions (at least). I've never seen any other wealthy investors that take this stance. He lost reputation and friends too… its hard to do the right thing… usually though, anything worth doing is going to be difficult. Kudos my friend.. hanks for not being morally bankrupt.

  • MotorDetroit

    I agree with the premise here but this guy gives no real palpable content to his argument that Facebook is not a force for good. Sounds very much like the no evidence memes we find of Facebook. And the clickbait title is the real cherry on top of this empty shell assertion. I expect better from Big Think. Please re think and outline what is wrong with Facebook and how we fix it. Thank You.

  • GoldBeard The Thirteenth

    The problem is that users want anonymity online. If facebook eliminates or makes it stricter, other sites that do gain market share and we will still have this type of problem. Government regulation needs to be in place because users want something that they cannot offer. The idea that they have to keep it free and open is BS. If one of Facebook's VPs or C level guys went viral in a negative light, they would shut it down faster than they did on the New Zealand shooting. To their credit, they didn't eliminate the backlash from it on their site.

    The other thing is that fake accounts ruin the democratic algos of the content. Democracy by user interactions is how it appears to operate.

    My problem and why I like anonymity online is that corporate and the bee hive mind (bees sting and they attack when triggered and they always want an apology to them instead of the people that they actually hurt. They just look for an excuse to do bad things because they want to) retaliation is real and becoming an incredibly bigger problem. I would rather be anonymous because it is safer as the only thing that they can do is

  • Mark Ferrari

    Facebook is like a big city, there are bad places full of bad people and there are good places full of nice people. Use the tools Facebook offers for free and don’t click on ads, don’t join threads with people you don’t know. Facebook can be great if you don’t engage with morons

  • neil nelson

    My Facebook account was disabled, since then my life has been at peace and more productive….thank you Mr. Suckerberg

  • Heldchenklein

    So he donated all the money he made from his investment and some more to repair all the damage he as caused with his investment?

  • Andrew Tataj

    the way this guy uses 'successful' as a stand in for 'made lots of money' should tell you a lot about him. Sir, the accumulation of things does not mean you are successful, it means that you have lots of things.

  • Joseph Ayoub

    Another example of an elite breaking the law and justice not being served. I deleted my fb account immediately after watching Zuckerberg appearing before congress and the way he answered their questions. He should be charged.

  • SusanBailey AmazingEstate

    Being able to look yourself in the eyes when you brush your teeth and comb your hair is worth more than money.

    Looks like you might get the added benefit of selling FB at exactly the right time. It’s coming into some tough times. From users, from US government, from competitors. Good for you.

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