Billions of people work for a Silicon Valley company, one of the richest in the world – without any pay. Volker Weber wonders: Why actually? And do people even know what they are doing?

It’s hard to remember all the Facebook scandals of 2018 – they followed each other too fast. And in 2019, how does the old year end: children instigated to spend their parents’ money? Reward people for installing a spy app? One does not even question the bad news, because until now always came out: Facebook has dirt on the plug and always gives just as much as you can prove. In court, that would have no good consequences. But with Mark Zuckerberg, founder and sole ruler of Facebook, you automatically assume that he lies when his lips move.
Facebook could do so much good: bring friends together, make the world smaller – all live in a peaceful digital village. This is also the self-image of Mark Zuckerberg. Unfortunately, the practice looks different: When it comes to weighing the interests of Facebook and users against each other, always wins Facebook.

The extension of law as a principle

The principle of stretching legal rules to such a degree that you could just get away with it the other day was already early on at Zuckerberg. Already as a prospective Harvard student, he had gotten into trouble because he had used the photos of his fellow students for his website Facemash quickly to make a hot-or-not copy. To ask for consent, Zuckerberg had simply forgotten. Whether Facebook was really his idea, or the older fellow students Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra, was never resolved.

Guest commentator Volker Weber (private)

DW guest commentator Volker Weber

Zuckerberg’s latest plan is to put the messengers from Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp on a common platform. He may be in breach of a condition imposed by the EU that agreed to take over WhatsApp only on the condition that it does not link that data.
The popularity of Zuckerberg’s empire does not detract from this yet. The world divides into the larger part of the intense users who can no longer imagine life without WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook, and the much smaller part of the abstainers. “Yes, the whole surveillance is pukewarm, but how are we to organize our children’s group without WhatsApp?” or “I would not go to Facebook anymore, but all my friends are here” is heard regularly.

Contribution to the polarization of society

Commitment – that’s what Zuckerberg is all about. Because the more the users get involved, the more they become products of their company. Products that can be measured and categorized, and then sold to the actual customers: advertisers in better case and political strippers in the worse. The engagement, however, drives up Facebook, in which it presents excitement: posts that you can like, comment on, or both. And then you get more, more and more. Facebook may not intend to polarize society, and yet it makes a vital contribution to that.
Can Facebook reform for the better and earn our trust? I have legitimate doubts.

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