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No Mercy No Malice

Facebook Inc. New Employee Manual

September 24, 2021

I wrote this two and a half years ago, and believe it still lands.


[The following was originally published on May 31, 2019.]

Sociobook

There’s a firm that’s grown faster than any firm to date. Its founder also set the DNA of the firm, but without the benefit of the modulation and self-awareness that come with age. It’s in a sector where network effects created a handful of organisms of unprecedented scale. There has never been an organization of this scale and influence, that is more like its founder, than Facebook. I know, you’re thinking, “What about the Catholic Church?” Nope. Numerous acts of violence against children, coupled with institutionalized cover-ups, mean the acorn has fallen pretty far from the tree (Jesus).

Here’s the rub: Mark Zuckerberg is a sociopath, and Facebook has institutionalized sociopathy. To understand sociopaths, according to the quirky psychologist on my new favorite show, Fleabag, you need to take things away, not add them. There is no empathy, no emotion, nothing. According to a less entertaining, but likely more credible source, Psychology Today:

Sociopathy is an informal term that refers to a pattern of antisocial behaviors and attitudes. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), sociopathy is most closely represented by Antisocial Personality Disorder. Outwardly, those described as sociopaths may appear disturbed but can also show signs of caring, sincerity, and trustworthiness. In fact, they are manipulative, often lie, lack empathy, and have a weak conscience that allows them to act recklessly or aggressively, even when they know their behavior is wrong.

The above makes for a decent blurb for Zuck for his upcoming 20-year high school reunion. Maybe also something about him learning Mandarin or some such.

As firms scale and want to maintain the DNA of the founder, they often assemble employee handbooks, meant to be a Bible for how “we do things at Facebook.” My friend John Pinette has joined the firm as global head of communications. I like John, and want to help him be successful. Note: the first part of the previous sentence is true.

Easy squeezy, John. First off, identify what behaviors are not acceptable. Images of Tim Cook (respect for privacy), Marc Benioff (concern for the commonwealth), or Indra Nooyi (empathy) are the kryptonite to Sociobook. These vulnerabilities could inhibit the firm’s superpower: making more money while inflicting more damage than any firm in history.

Instead, the real North Star at Facebook is simple: understand the behavior of sociopaths. Your team needs to continue to demonstrate and reinforce the following characteristics of how, according to Psychology Today, sociopaths seduce their victims (Congress, regulators, media, citizenry):

— False expressions of love
— False promises of protection
— Fake compatibility (I’m like you)
— I’m the real victim (turning things around on accuser)
— Fantasy villains (inventing crises you alone can fight)

And, of course, no respectable employee manual would be effective without hard examples of the behaviors and characteristics we want to reinforce. In order:

False expressions of love

Mark Zuckerberg promised love. The key to happiness, and love itself is … connection. Mark set out to “connect the world.” Love on a global scale was coming our way. Sheryl positioned herself as the spokesperson and advocate for the world’s largest oppressed cohort: women.

When people are connected, we can just do some great things. They have the opportunity to get access to jobs, education, health, communications. We have the opportunity to bring the people we care about closer to us. It really makes a big difference.
Mark Zuckerberg, February 2015

[Bringing people closer together is so important that] we’re going to change Facebook’s whole mission to take this on.
Mark Zuckerberg, June 2017

False promises of protection

There are pretty intensive privacy options, people have very good control over who can see their information.
Mark Zuckerberg interview, Harvard Crimson, February 2004

I’m committed to making Facebook the leader in transparency and control around privacy.
Mark Zuckerberg, 2011

I’m serious about doing what it takes to protect our community.
Mark Zuckerberg, March 2018

Your trust is at the core of our service.
Sheryl Sandberg, March 2018

On Facebook, everything that you share there you have control over.
Mark Zuckerberg, testimony to Congress, April 2018

We don’t sell data to anyone … This is the most important principle for Facebook: Every piece of content that you share on Facebook, you own and you have complete control over who sees it, and how you share it, and you can remove it at any time.
Mark Zuckerberg, testimony to Congress, April 2018

Every piece of information that Facebook might know about you, you can get rid of all of it.
Mark Zuckerberg, testimony to Congress, April 2018

We need to do better.
— Sheryl Sandberg, repeatedly, 2018-2019

ZUCK: i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns
FRIEND: what!? how’d you manage that one?
ZUCK: people just submitted it
ZUCK: i don’t know why
ZUCK: they “trust me”
ZUCK: dumb fucks
Mark Zuckerberg conversation with a friend at Harvard


Fake compatibility (I’m like you)

I can relate to this. I started Facebook to connect my college … We were just college kids. But we cared so much about this idea — that all people want to connect. So we just kept pushing forward, day by day, just like you.
Mark Zuckerberg, June 2017

Let me fall if I must fall. The one I become will catch me. Slowly.
Sheryl Sandberg in Option B

I hope you find true meaning, contentment, and passion in your life. I hope you navigate the difficult times and come out with greater strength and resolve. I hope you find whatever balance you seek with your eyes wide open. And I hope that you — yes, you — have the ambition to lean in to your career and run the world. Because the world needs you to change it.
Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In

What is your biggest problem, and how can I solve it?
Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In


I’m the real victim (turning things around on accuser)

This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg on Cambridge Analytica scandal, March 2018

Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.
The New York Times, November 2018


Fantasy villains (inventing crises you alone can fight)

There is a huge need and a huge opportunity to get everyone in the world connected, to give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future. The scale of the technology and infrastructure that must be built is unprecedented, and we believe this is the most important problem we can focus on.
Mark Zuckerberg, Letter to Shareholders, 2012

While people are concerned with the size and power of tech companies, there’s also a concern in the United States with the size and power of Chinese companies, and the realization that those companies are not going to be broken up.
Sheryl Sandberg describing threat to US posed by Chinese tech firms

So if I sound as if I am accusing Facebook of becoming the Hulk to Zuck’s Dr. Bruce Banner, and giving rise to the supernova skynet of sociopathic behavior, trust your instincts. In Star Wars, the Sith Lords were all initially benign.

Two years ago, in The Four, I wrote that big tech posed a much larger threat to our society than we believed. One year ago, I said Mr. Zuckerberg was the most dangerous man in the world. Today, I’d ask we imagine a firm made in its founder’s image that closely mirrors that person’s genius and deficiencies.

Antisocial behavior in media is not new, it’s just new and (uber-) improved here. The President has a direct line to 68 million people via Twitter. Rupert Murdoch serves right-wing propaganda to his 2.4 million viewers. However, these are mosquito bites compared to the ebola of Sociobook. Sociobook Inc. aims to encrypt, abdicating all responsibility, the communications of 2.7 billion people. The algorithm determining the content this cohort receives (greater than the Southern Hemisphere + India) is controlled by a sociopath, who cannot be removed from his post, and who could be in that role for another 60 years.

Imagine.

Life is so rich,

P.S. My friend and colleague Professor Adam Alter is helping marketers, strategists, and everyone in between learn and apply the psychology, principles, and practices of the world’s best products to their own. Check out his Product Strategy Sprint. Registration closes next Thursday.

34 comments

  1. Peter says:

    Time to let this go now Galloway, the shtick is getting boring and sounds a little self-serving. I agree with some of the criticism, but really, there are bigger, societal issues at play here…

  2. Neil says:

    Al is right. Frances is right. STOP FACEBOOK HATE! People need to treat it like the pariah it is….!

  3. Anacharsis says:

    Well stated. And even partially in these comments, the sociopath’s victims remain self-unaware. All of the rationales of an addict – I use it in a healthy way, I don’t use it constantly, etc are just keep people giving Zuckerberg everything he wants, feeding his greed and power lust with no check whatsoever.

  4. WorkUSA says:

    brilliant analysis as usual Prof G. It is amazing how many of these so called ” disruptive” tech companies are well marketed vaporware. You would think that the investor community will learn the lessons of the likes of Theranos – but guess people are so desperate to find the next big shit – that they have forgotten how to distinguish BS from actual stuffbrilliant analysis as usual Prof G. It is amazing how many of these so called ” disruptive” tech companies are well marketed vaporware. You would think that the investor community will learn the lessons of the likes of Theranos – but guess people are so desperate to find the next big shit – that they have forgotten how to distinguish BS from actual stuff……..www.works51.com

  5. Steven says:

    Sorry Scott. I agree with some of the downfalls of FB, IG but I read this article 2 times wanted to get it but I think our experiences are very differnent. My Facebook is full of aunts/cousins/friends/businesses interacting and sharing. My IG is full of friends sharing the fun times with families. My twitter is full of, well, people fighting. Tim Cook cares about privacy because he owns a technology platform not a social network.

    • Al says:

      Sure, yours is full of light and joy. My facebook is also full of progressive people behaving nicely. But our facebooks aren’t the problem, echo chambers as they are. The problem is the other facebook echo chambers filled with increasingly outlandish rightwing extremist rage.

  6. KrystalGriffin says:

    brilliant analysis as usual Prof G. It is amazing how many of these so called ” disruptive” tech companies are well marketed vaporware. You would think that the investor community will learn the lessons of the likes of Theranos – but guess people are so desperate to find the next big shit – that they have forgotten how to distinguish BS from actual stuffbrilliant analysis as usual Prof G. It is amazing how many of these so called ” disruptive” tech companies are well marketed vaporware. You would think that the investor community will learn the lessons of the likes of Theranos – but guess people are so desperate to find the next big shit – that they have forgotten how to distinguish BS from actual stuff……..www.smartcas1.com

  7. KrystalGriffin says:

    hy

  8. Ken Ellis says:

    Write on! But I totally agree with Steven Volpp. Live your values, dude. I’m shocked at how many of my lefty friends find Zuckerberg’s values abhorrent and still enable him by using his tool. #DeleteFacebook.

  9. Robin Eaton-Novak says:

    Whoa. That’s a lot. Like we did we did with ATT, can we break up Sociobook into mini books? Lol

  10. Douglas McConnell says:

    Jesus what the hell did Facebook do to piss both you and WSJ off? It’s like open season on them right now. Don’t disagree in principle with some of the criticism but this feels personal.

  11. Steven Volpp says:

    I agree with everything you say. Until I see the Facebook logo on the bottom of your anti-Facebook rant. If you want to make a change. If you really want to be seen as a leader, then YOU need to get off the crack pipe too.

  12. Frank Herrmann says:

    That was a real eye opener. Thanks.

  13. Patrick Fekula says:

    Just substitute Donald Trump for Zuck and you have updated your article.

  14. Old GenX Techie says:

    Your post is right on. As someone who is in your age range and cut school to watch War Games when it came out and was a computer geek. I never trusted the Zuck and their alikes like Peter Thiel with Palantir.

    Both seemed to be damaged computer nerds that need to prove something to the world and can’t mature past it with no forceful guide rails – at least China has the Commie Torture Dept that does the “Jack Ma”. This part of the classic 1968 comedy Casino Royale pins it down. https://youtu.be/j2MbvFYy_8Y

  15. Coco says:

    Scott, it seems that the Chinese government has known the risks of opening the great firewall to Facebook. Say what you may about the CCP… they have finally stepped up and began limiting big tech. The new Protector of citizens privacy. It’s about damn time. Will the rest of the world copy them or sit on their ass wringing their hands like you.

  16. Michael Robinson says:

    I just watched your podcast on PBS and realized I haven’t been receiving your newsletter, which I greatly enjoy. It states that I labeled something as inappropriate or something. If that did happen it was in error and I wish to be re-subscribed. . I have been disabled from a failed back surgery two years ago affecting my legs and treatment damaging my eyesight, which might explain a slip of the finger. My wife of 39 years passed in May and that has been devastating to say the least.we had a good life and she is not suffering anymore in this one. Now I move on, hopefully again enjoying your writings and podcasts and pictures of your Great Dane pup. Be well, Michael

  17. KMcG says:

    Nailed it.

  18. dallasboiler says:

    Facebook is a digital opioid. Like real opioids, it was likely first introduced as something that could serve well-intended purposes (pain-relief for opioids; human-connection for FB). But, like real opioids, it is far too easily abused in ways that affect the masses to be allowed to exist without regulation.

    It’s funny, I quit FB over 10 years ago but not originally because of privacy concerns. When I had joined about 5 years prior, I liked the idea of connecting with old friends, staying in contact with family, and using it to coordinate group activities. However, those benefits were quickly overtaken by being inundated with newsfeeds & opinions from mere acquaintances (not to mention too many spam updates about Farmersville quests). Quitting FB has kept me out of the loop on certain updates from far-flung family members and being able to connect with small businesses that I support; but that cost was worth getting rid of the mindless distractions and updates from folks on the fringes peddling conspiracy theories and extremism (left and right of center).

    From what I understand, TikTok just further amplifies this as the WSJ noted in their study that showed how easily a child accessing TikTok can be steered into a world of sexually explicit or illegal drug espousing content.

    All of these vices existed far before FB and TikTok, but these platforms’ algorithms and lack of regulation (internally and externally) explode access to these vices in a way with which the human brain (child or adult) cannot adequately cope. Thanks Scott for continuing to call attention to this!

    • Bobby says:

      Community standards, these people are delusional, they know exactly what they are doing in steering society, it’s dangerous and
      irresponsible.Their fantasy community is being propelled by the thousands joining every day, meanwhile the actual community is dead…. Thanks to all the self obsorbed, self righteous, egotistical pricks that started all this.

  19. Cass Bielski says:

    Excellent analysis.

  20. Peter says:

    The Sociopath Network

  21. Michael Harrington says:

    Maybe I need to use it to appreciate the danger. Friends who use it never seems to complain, except that I don’t use it. Academics (nothing good can of anything big), politicians (infamy infamy theyve all got it in for me) or the media (waaah the big kid stole our advertising). As an ordinary person I just don’t understand the threat. Covid yes, Facebook no.

    • dallasboiler says:

      Michael, I suggest you watch “The Social Dilemma” or read the Facebook series from last week in the Wall Street Journal. The danger and damage done is real. TikTok is even worse. Read this: https://www.wsj.com/articles/tiktok-algorithm-sex-drugs-minors-11631052944?st=dztoiw759dp9kcb&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

    • Roz says:

      As a former user, I realized there is very little upside and tremendous downside to fb (inundated with info/adds that I didn’t seek, my personal info in FB files forever to be used as FB wants, phishing accounts poaching people’s potential passwords through games, and even connecting with old friends – not as rewarding as you’d think after that initial reunion.:.the past is best left where it is). The people that are truly part of your life you already have their contact info for and see in person. My naïveté, but I don’t understand what the 2.7 bill users find in FB.

  22. ahavta says:

    Check out the Decetralized Social platform… DeSo.org… recently rolled out. It is, indeed, meant to give us hope in the fight against the sociopathic CEO. https://finance.yahoo.com/video/decentralized-facebook-killer-attracts-200m-172316645.html

  23. jeffrey says:

    Scott you are a great writer and your intentions are good. Regardless, your bias is astounding- just look how you note right wing propaganda while ignoring the just as dangerous left wing versions.

    Regardless FB is just giving us a close up view of humanity- warts and all. This all existed before FB, it just wasn’t as apparent or obvious.

    FB has an impossible job because we all value different things and there is no mortal arbiter in existence that could satisfy everyone.

    And- they are constantly improving (two steps forward, one back).

    The world is adjusting to these new mediums. In time- this will all work out for the better. Why? Because it always does.

  24. Jonathan Field says:

    After the 2016 election, I was really angry at Facebook’s influence on seeding lies about Clinton. It hit me then that Zuckerberg was exploiting the user base for his own power-for-power’s sake. And it spooked me and made me angry. Today I’m a nurse but but then I was working as a researcher and strategist in brand communications. So I gathered a group of some of the smartest folks I knew in business and brainstormed ways to do two things – get Facebook’s users (who are its real capital) to recognize their power and simultaneously force Zuckerberg to be accountable. Here’s where we landed. We recognized the power of Facebook in people’s lives. In the lives of small business. Local communities. It would be ludicrous to try to get people to quit en masse. It was too much part of everyone’s daily lives. But what we could do is reflect back user power. How? Through set, periodic, choreographed boycotts. Say Black Mondays when crowds of Facebook users consciously logged off. It could start with 20 people, go to 200, then 2000, build to 20K and then 200K and so on. It didn’t have to be a big bang or bust moment. Honestly, what I realized with my creative group were too many of them were already somehow tied with jobs connected to Facebook. They were wary of being connected to such a thing. And so we sputtered. But we did create some assets I’m willing to try to resurrect. Again, I’ve left advertising now for healthcare. But if there’s someone energetic and connected – or just passionate with friends – build on this idea. It can start off like Occupy Wall Street. A decentralized movement. But the big goal is for Facebook to acknowledge its users power and be more responsive both to our privacy and also to the information they share.

  25. David Harper says:

    Whether you agree/disagree with Scott, surely you must appreciate that we seem to be surrounded by cowards and must depend on so few leaders/influencers who are fearlessly speak their truth without regard to so many silly consequences.

  26. Will says:

    I really appreciate your arguments about why ‘something needs to be done’ about Facebook. I’m wondering if you could move the focus to ‘what can be done?’ For example, maybe an analysis of the ACCESS Act, particularly on how it might encourage a patchwork of connected social medias to replace the current behemoths.

    Disclaimer: I’m a founder of a small (and on the ugly side of the network effect) messaging app to “let you learn a language while texting your friends.” As such, I have a vested interest in seeing social media interoperability legislation. However, I also believe that society at large would benefit.

  27. MSDNC says:

    By your definition, why wouldn’t MSNBC, CNN, and NYT count as left wing propaganda?

  28. Currently tracking says:

    You can only “deactivate” your facebook account last I checked. Which is not deleting a thing.

  29. Nartip says:

    Why even join FB in the first place?

  30. Frank says:

    Couldn’t help but chuckle that I could comment on this post on Facebook.