On March 29, investor, venture capitalist and musician Roger McNamee spoke to a packed house as part of the Kenan Institute-sponsored Dean’s Speaker Series at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. With McNamee’s many accomplishments, the main draw for many was something else: his insider’s view of Facebook, and what he called the company’s use of “their extraordinary influence on our lives to nudge us in directions that we’re not conscious of.”
McNamee is the author of the New York Times best-selling book, “Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe,” which chronicles his early mentorship of Mark Zuckerberg and other tech leaders, and his subsequent realization that the Facebook platform and its legitimate advertising tools were being manipulated by “bad actors.”
McNamee met Zuckerberg in 2006, when he was brought in during a crisis at the two-year-old company. McNamee helped rebuild Facebook’s management team, introducing Zuckerberg to Sheryl Sandberg, now the company’s chief operating officer. A decade later, McNamee began to raise questions about Facebook’s security. He said, “I really loved the company and yet at the very beginning of 2016 I started to see things that didn’t fit my understanding of what Facebook should be…there was something wrong in the business model and the algorithms that could be systematically exploited.”
The most distressing part for McNamee was that, when he pointed out the vulnerabilities to Zuckerberg and Sandberg, he said “they treated it like a public relations problem, not like a business problem. And I realized that I couldn’t count on them to solve the problem.”
It was then, said McNamee, that he became an activist. The result was “Zucked.” He describes the book as being “designed for people who not only know nothing about technology, but couldn’t care less. But they do care deeply about being influenced. They don’t want to be manipulated. They don’t want to have democracy be undermined. They don’t want their children to be harmed. They don’t want their privacy to be wantonly invaded. And they certainly don’t want to see the economy undermined by monopolists.”
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