The easiest way to be disappointed is to expect others to act contrary to their self-interest. So really, we shouldn’t be disappointed to hear that Zuckerberg is enthusiastic about finding a way to appease Chinese censorship.
Facebook has already gobbled up an incredible 1.8 billion people and auctioned off their eyeballs and privacy with astounding economic success. If Zuckerberg can lock up another 1.4 billion Chinese, Facebook could feed the growth beast for at least several quarters!
The money quote from The New York Times’ story on Facebook’s open mind on censorship goes like this:
It’s better for Facebook to be a part of enabling conversation, even if it’s not yet the full conversation.
Calling bowing to Chinese’s suppression of dissidents a “conversation” makes about as much sense as defending Thiel’s board seat as “diversity”.
But as I said, we shouldn’t be surprised. Of course Zuckerberg is going to spin an opportunity to double his user base as something that’s good for the world. That’s the thing about the new class of tech lords. Unlike the robber barons of old, they so desperately need to cast their greed and growth as a direct blessing to the world.
It reminded me of the Sinclair quote about a man and his paycheck. Repurposed for the age:
It’s difficult to get an entrepreneur to understand something, when their valuation depends on them not understanding it.
It seems painfully obvious that if Facebook arms the Chinese government with tools to suppress and hunt dissent, the slogan of “making the world more open and connected” is definitively a sham. But maybe this is just Facebook growing up and succumbing to the same market pressures as everyone else. Google dropped “Don’t Be Evil” a while back too.
It’s hard to have a backbone when it has to carry the weight of billions of dollars. At the very least it seems that several Facebook employees decided that their conscience was worth more and quit over having to work on this. Kudos to them.