The Lede, Monday, April 9, 2018
By David Royse
Today in 1867 the U.S. Senate ratified the purchase of Alaska (from Russia) for $7.2 million. That’s about 2 cents an acre. There has been no comment from President Trump on whether this was a good deal.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg goes to Washington this week, starting with meetings today with members of Congress ahead of two days of hearings where they’ll grill him about what the company does with all the information we voluntarily give it.
Most of the media coverage of this spectacle has had a tinge of enjoyment, as if a smug Silicon Valley success story (which describes both Zuck and Facebook) are finally getting a deserved comeuppance. That tack is too bad – because questions about how Facebook uses the data it collects are legitimate, and something worth exploring.
But it also seems to me that Facebook is clearly providing something people want (it has more than 2 billion active monthly users – far, far more people than the entire population of the United States.) And in not paying for the service, how did those people think Facebook was making money? I grant the company could make that more clear (and in its effort to avoid heavy regulation, it is starting to), but the current witch-hunt atmosphere leads me to highlight this question, raised smartly by the Washington Post: Would you be willing to pay $82 a year to Facebook?
Zuck’s response: that’s not the hyper-connected world he wants to create. In that world, the affluent have access to social media, and the poor do not. The Post asks whether there might be a way to do both – like with Spotify or other subscription services, where the affluent don’t have to worry about how their data is used because they pay for it not to be used, and the poor, if they want to use the service, pay for it by making their data available for use..
Because without data-targeted ads, Facebook would be a paid service. The company’s Sheryl Sandberg makes that clear.
Meanwhile, more from the Facebook mea culpa tour from company VP Elliott Schrage and director of research David Ginsberg.
“Today, Facebook is announcing a new initiative to help provide independent, credible research about the role of social media in elections, as well as democracy more generally….. The last two years have taught us that the same Facebook tools that help politicians connect with their constituents — and different communities debate the issues they care about — can also be misused to manipulate and deceive.”
Did Zuck Fly Mid-Week?
When should the heads of the other big tech companies that collect lots of data (Google, Amazon) be booking their flights to Washington?
A Sidelined Wall Street Legend, the Forest Gump of Bitcoin
“In 2013, Novogratz put seven million dollars of his own money in cryptocurrency investments when bitcoin was selling at around a hundred dollars a coin. (A single coin currently sells for more than sixty times that amount.) Citing his luck at being in the right place at the right time, Novogratz has called himself ‘the Forrest Gump of bitcoin.'” The New Yorker
JUST ONE POLITICAL STORY
Can a 65-year-old Republican white guy get young people excited? BuzzFeed
Or does he come off more like this?
Good news in medical research:
NOTES FROM THE AGE OF DISRUPTION:
The Canadian advertising tech firm has been suspended by Facebook for allegedly being connected to Cambridge Analytica parent SCL. National Observer.
Has acquired bike-share company Jump. CNNMoney
The Chinese artificial intelligence startup is now the highest valued AI startup in the world at $3 billion. Bloomberg
Is buying so much solar power from a Virginia site, it’s making the state a leader in the field. Virginian-Pilot
It’s owner’s other company has done just fine with rockets, so why is Tesla having a hard time building a car? Quartz