The young billionaire geniuses in Silicon Valley may honestly believe that they are more benevolent, more brilliant and more cool than the robber barons of America’s Gilded Age who ruled the economy more than a century ago, but they just might be fooling themselves. Certainly they are trying to fool us.
No person is a better example of this than Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, a grown man with a boyishly-innocent face and more than $108 billion in reported net worth. He wants us all to believe that his world-dominating social-media company is a benign influence that improves society by enabling people to make new friends online. Any negative impacts of his business, he claims, are accidental and not his fault.
There is mounting evidence to indicate Zuckerberg is either deluded or dishonest. A whistleblower, former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen, recently testified before a Senate committee, blasting Zuckerberg and his colleagues for knowingly allowing content on their platform that does serious harm to children, as well as failing to adequately monitor a torrent of misinformation that is seriously undermining American democracy.
Why would Facebook do such things? To rake in even more massive profits, Haugen said.
Meanwhile, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is taking Facebook to court for a second time over the company’s alleged violations of state campaign finance laws. “Facebook is a commercial advertiser, yet it views itself above this law,” Ferguson charges. “Even after a previous lawsuit and the original complaint in this case, it still refuses to provide the public access to all required information about political ads.” There are numerous other allegations against Facebook, enough to make many in Congress believe it is time to rein in the social-media colossus. We will see whether that happens, but, if nothing else, it would be nice to hear the Facebook crew admit they are more than just whiz kids giving people a place to post pictures of their cats. They might just be the robber barons of a new gilded age.
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