What the hell is going on at Facebook? Read the web version


Hello! I hope you had a fabulous week. Just a short note to say that I've started work on collecting a long-term archive of every edition we've ever sent, and you can see the last year's worth here. If you ever want to share an edition, or browse the history they'll live here forever, including today's one!

Tucked away in this edition is a great deal on Recharged, and I'd love to see you in the community, so look out for that, but otherwise, enjoy the reads!

Happy Sunday, and see you next week.


What's going on with Facebook?

It feels like Facebook's in the news every other week with another scandal or revelation, and it's exhausting. But, however exhausting it is, we must pay attention, and this week was another defining moment for the company.

On November 14, a damning report from The New York Times delivered a raft of details about the inner-workings of Facebook after the 2016 elections:

"But it wasn’t the looming disaster at Facebook that angered Ms. Sandberg. It was the social network’s security chief, Alex Stamos, who had informed company board members the day before that Facebook had yet to contain the Russian infestation. Mr. Stamos’s briefing had prompted a humiliating boardroom interrogation of Ms. Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and her billionaire boss. She appeared to regard the admission as a betrayal."

The entire piece is absolutely worth reading because it's a culmination of more than 50 interviews and other research, offering insight into a famously secret culture that we don't get very often. I linked to it last week in here, but I felt like it deserved breaking down even further, given what's happened since.

Here's just a few things we learned from that piece:

  1. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer, oversaw an aggressive campaign to discredit critics and win over Washington.
  2. Alex Stamos, Facebook's former Chief Security Officer, independently investigated Russian activity as far back as 2016, and discovered patterns that he presented to Zuckerberg and Sandberg. They were 'furious' he did the investigation without approval. (He denies this)
  3. Mark Zuckerberg was annoyed off by Tim Cook's comments that Apple "doesn't track in [people's] personal lives" that he ordered executives to use Android phones (he denies this).
  4. Executives at Facebook systematically played down realities of data breaches while being well aware of the problems.
  5. Facebook paid a lobbying group called Definers to do research on its opponents, which then created a series of hoax articles and paid media to discredit them, including activist George Soros.

What happened since then has been just as bizarre. Facebook vehemently denied hiring lobbying organizations, and almost every other claim in the story, with Zuckerberg saying that he had no knowledge of the company.

Then, the evening before Thanksgiving Facebook Newsroom published a damning memo from the company's outgoing head of communications. In it, he admits to hiring the firm after all, taking the fall for the blame and admitting that they both paid the organization and that Sandberg had signed off on it all.

The too long, didn't read of all of this is Facebook was meddling, and everyone in the company seemingly pretends like they weren't involved. It's a bizarre rabbit-hole of a story, but shows how much power the company really has to shape its own narrative and dance around the truth. 

This is on top of all the other problems, including the Cambridge Analytica data breach, genocide incited on the platform in Myanmar and many more I can't possibly fit here.

I often come back to this piece about Facebook needing regulation, but nobody knowing what to do about it, and wondering if, in the future, we'll get better at dealing with companies before they get larger than a country.

Lead GIF from The Verge's data breach story in March.

Around the web

🤦‍♀️ LinkedIn is getting in on the Snapchat Stories fad

📰 Apparently BuzzFeed wants to make a giant news organization

📱 Foxconn plans deep cuts as smartphone sales begin to crater

😱 China plans to roll out 'social ratings' across country by 2020


Technology moves fast, and it's hard to keep up. Recharged is my weekday briefing for busy people who want to know about the technology industry, but don't have time to read news sites. Get the TL;DR, on your way to work.

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When the tech mythology collapses

A few years ago it seemed like technology would save us all, and the media gleefully reported about how great everything is, without questioning much about the realities or hardships it might bring.

This piece by The Atlantic takes a great look at how the tide has turned, and what got us here. Technology still does some great stuff, but many of the larger companies have showed their teeth as they've grown in size.

🌎 The Atlantic

Other good reads

Bitcoin pioneer seeks bankruptcy protection as value plummets

The Art of Job Interviewing

Bread, Disrupted


A new way to be discovered on Twitter

Twitter has failed to build any sort of meaningful discovery product for its users, so in that void Twiverse has popped up. It's a indie-made service that lets you discover new people to follow and helps diversify your feed. ♥

🌎 Twiverse


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