Because Blue Shoe Strategy is a company that specializes in social media, and because I do a lot of public speaking, I’m often asked questions about how to keep Facebook “clean.” Should there be oversight? What responsibility should Facebook have for the content that it maintains?
My answer over the years has always been steadfast: “Facebook has no content. The content comes from we, the people, and it is our responsibility to provide content that is clean, honest, respectful, and engaging.” Shame on me.
I thought of Facebook as a huge hotel in which we each get to have our own room. Those whom we invite into the rooms and what we do in the rooms are our responsibility. Facebook fills the rooms with water pitchers and all you need to have a good time, but the good time itself is up to us. Now I realize that Facebook can have an agenda, and because they have the keys, can break into our rooms and lure our guests with drinks laced with evil to fulfill that agenda.
The New York Times reported today that Facebook paid a public-relations company to try to, at best, take away the credibility of George Soros, and, at worst, decimate his entire reputation because of a speech he gave at Davos last January, which put out a warning for oversight for Facebook and other social media platforms. Boy was he right. Then Facebook gave the PR firm access to Facebook to do it. This shakes me to my core. Not just because I know him personally — and I do, which makes the loyalist in me enraged to a boiling point that could send the pot bouncing off my stove — but also because I never thought Facebook had the power to take down our republic, and now I know it does.
Flashback to the early 1990s, when I was at lunch with George Soros in the Hamptons. It was one of those balmy summer days on which the intelligent elite was talking about this and that around the table for hours and hours, totally enthralled by our own inflated brilliance. The question arose as to who is the most powerful man in the world. We went around the table, and everybody gave the usual answers: former President Reagan, etc. Then George quietly said, “The most powerful man in the world is Ted Turner because he owns CNN, which reaches more people in the world than anyone or any other media, by far. And if you control the news that gets to all the people in the world, and no one else has anywhere near that kind of reach, then that makes you the most powerful man.” We all thought to ourselves, And that’s why he makes the big bucks. I realize now, 25 years later, that was almost a premonition of the darkness that was to come. Because now, Facebook is like CNN was then, and George’s speech last January, given haltingly and touted by some as ridiculously exaggerated, now seems spot-on.
There is no oversight of social media platforms, and I, one who makes a living off of them, had no idea of the danger that they hold. George has stated that it's not about him. It's about the danger to our society, and he is right. But just how much vitriolic venom does this man need to take before our leaders stand up and come to his aid?
Shame on me. Shame on everyone. The question remains: What should those of us who have been shamed do now? What is the response that might actually ensure that someone like Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg never has the kind of power to bring down a human being who has only done good in the world, just because he speaks up about the danger their power holds?
-- Christine Merser, Managing Partner