Facebook had 2.41 billion monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2019, making it the world’s biggest social network. It passed the 1-billion-user mark in 2012 — a first for a social network. CEO Mark Zuckerberg had a net worth of about $68.2 billion in August 2019, making him the fifth-richest person in the world.
Bad news doesn’t seem to hurt Zuckerberg. His 410 million shares of Facebook stock appreciated by more than $1 billion after news broke in July of a $5 billion fine and privacy restrictions imposed by the Federal Trade Commission.
Each year since Facebook’s 2012 IPO, Zuckerberg has added an average of $9 billion to his net worth. He and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are philanthropists, investing billions of dollars in childhood education and medical research that they hope will cure diseases in their children’s’ lifetimes, Business Insider reported.
Zuckerberg did not achieve world domination by being a nice guy. Here are some examples of him cheating, lobbying and lying his way to world domination.
The Winklevosses twins hired Mark Zuckerberg in 2003 when they were all students at Harvard. The twins said that they, along with another Harvard student, Divya Narendra, had the original idea for Facebook and that Zuckerberg stole it. They asked him to do computer programming for a website called Harvard Connection.
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Zuckerberg, then a sophomore, said he would help the Winklevosses and Narendra program Harvard Connection, later renamed ConnectU. But Zuckerberg delayed work on Harvard Connection, stalled the Winklevosses, and in February 2004, released TheFacebook, which eventually became Facebook.
The Winklevosses sued Facebook and Zuckerberg in 2004, and settled four years later for $20 million in cash and $45 million in Facebook shares. The settlement gave Facebook ownership of ConnectU. Zuckerberg denied he stole the Facebook idea from the Winklevosses, saying they planned a dating site. He planned and built a social network.
Zuckerberg diluted co-founder Eduardo Saverin‘s stake in the company and then kicked him out — a move that was central to the plot of the movie “Social Network”. Zuckerberg did this by creating a new company to acquire the old company and then distribute new shares in the new company to everybody but Saverin.
Zuckerberg sent his lawyer an email telling him to draft paperwork that would result in Saverin’s dilution. That famous email included this request from Zuckerberg to his lawyer: “Is there a way to do this without making it painfully apparent to him that he’s being diluted to 10%?”
Facebook’s value plummeted $37 billion in value in 2018 after the company admitted to unlawfully transferring more than 50 million profiles to Cambridge Analytica, a political research company linked to Trump. Hired by Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, the data analytics firm harvested data without user consent. It turned out to be up to 87 million Fcaebook users impacted. Lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe opened investigations and Zuckerberg testified before Congress. Cambridge Analytica allegedly harvested the data to target voters in the 2016 presidential election, including an algorithm that could analyze Facebook profiles and determine voting behavior, according to Epic.org, the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles and built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons,” said Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie. “That was the basis the entire company was built on.”
Facebook learned about the data harvesting in 2015 but did not publicly acknowledge it until three years later.
Former Facebook operations manager Sandy Parakilas, the whistleblower on Facebook’s privacy practices during the Cambridge Analytica scandal, said some of the things Zuckerberg told Congress were incorrect, the Independent reported.
Facebook’s former motto was “move fast and break things.”
In a 2004 instant message exchange between Zuckerberg and a friend, the Facebook CEO expressed disbelief that so many people would willingly hand over their information to him, as reported by Business Insider. This was in the early days when Facebook had 4,000 members. Here’s how the conversation went:
Zuckerberg: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuckerberg: Just ask.
Zuckerberg: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
(Redacted Friend’s Name): What? How’d you manage that one?
Zuckerberg: People just submitted it.
Zuckerberg: I don’t know why.
Zuckerberg: They “trust me”
Zuckerberg: Dumb fucks.
In 2017, Zuckerberg didn’t even show up to the first congressional hearings about foreign powers using Facebook to try and influence the 2016 presidential election. Now he’s taking U.S. lawmakers more seriously, CNBC reported.
In September 2019, Zuckerberg toured Capitol Hill and met Trump — a longtime critic of Facebook — and other lawmakers. Lobbying experts said the visit is probably Zuckerberg trying to influence lawmakers while he is not under oath as they consider legislation that would impact his business.
Facebook faces an anti-trust investigation led by state attorneys general and a separate antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC fined Facebook $5 billion over the company’s privacy policies — the largest FTC fine ever for a tech company. Facebook agreed to do new oversight on how it uses user data.
With multi-billion-dollar fines and investigations piling up, Zuckerberg knows things are getting serious. He understands that self-regulation is off the table, CNBC reported.
“Worst-case scenario is that there’s policy being made that would impact their bottom line and they’re not in the room,” said Matt Grossmann, an associate professor at Michigan State University who has written extensively about lobbying. “So they want to ensure that that doesn’t happen by acting open to the policy and posing their own ideas.”
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In the wake of the 2018 scandals, investigations and increased scrutiny, Facebook looked to hire 11 policy managers for its Washington, D.C. office, Bloomberg reported.
Among tech companies, Facebook ranks third in spending on lobbyists behind Google and Amazon, according to Fast Company.
Facebook recently formalized its policy to allow politicians to lie in ads with impunity. Facebook says it will not send their claims to third-party fact-checkers. The Trump campaign was already running false ads about Democrats trying to repeal the Second Amendment. After the announcement, Trump’s campaign began running ads smearing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with debunked claims about his ties to Ukraine. Facebook refused to remove the ad when Biden asked. In response to the policy, Elizabeth Warren ran ads claiming Zuckerberg endorses Trump because Facebook allows his campaign lies. She has pressured Facebook on the issue, tweeting, “you can be in the disinformation-for-profit business, or you can hold yourself to some standards.”
Several ad agencies this month revealed details of a proposed settlement with Facebook to end a class-action suit alleging Facebook overstated the average time its users spent watching videos. “The average viewership metrics were … inflated by some 150 to 900%,” according to an amended complaint.
Claims against Facebook included violating unfair competition law, breach of contract and committing fraud, according to Hollywood Reporter. Facebook contested advertisers’ injuries, questioning whether they really relied on these metrics in deciding to purchase ad time. Facebook agreed to pay $40 million to settle but maintains the suit is “without merit.”