Zucked by Roger McNamme
Zucked Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe by Roger McNamee left me gobsmacked and numb after reading about the darker side of internet platforms on which we love spending our waking hours and many a times our sleeping time as well.
Bad Effects of Facebook
I have read enough on bad effects of Facebook and other social media sites for the individual life. The way heads are always low, nose deep into the screen, scrolling down the bottomless pit of news feeds for hours to get a peep into the life of other people and feel deprived and depressed seeing their happy faces going various places. That precious time could have been spent doing some productive work or socializing with the person sitting right in front of you.
Social media sites have become a medium to troll celebrities, harassing and duping innocent, spreading fake news and hatred. You must have seen all these happening.
But what Roger McNamee has said in the book Zucked was even more scary. With all the user data, Facebook has become a powerful tool which is being exploited by troublemakers to change the direction of the masses and to influence the decision.
Something which happened in the US election of 2016. Russia took advantage of Facebook ad strategies and pumped in money in Facebook ad to influence the USA election of 2016 in Trump’s favor was shocking. What was more shocking was Facebook’s role in it.
Facebook Ad Strategy
I have some knowledge about how the Facebook algorithm works. That knowledge found an enormous boost after reading Zucked.
Roger McNamee explains in details about various strategies adopted by Facebook like filter bubble, preference bubble for the user. These tools restrict showing post on your timeline. It generates a need for ads, thus enables Facebook to earn revenues.
Then there are tools like Custom Audience and Lookalike Audience to meet the specific requirement of advertisers.
We Are The Products
Now, I have heated discussion on this with my husband. According to him, Facebook is not running a charity platform for “Bharat Milap”. In exchange for using the free platform, we are allowing Facebook to use our data, to spy on our online activities and it then sell them for revenues. It is our responsibility to use it with caution. Mark Zuckerberg is there to earn money.
But my argument is, does this gives Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook right to allow breeding of fake profiles and the bots for the convenience of earning revenues.
The book is indeed thought provoking. Roger McNamee makes a powerful argument about the spreading evils of Facebook. But we are all so much invested in Facebook and other social media platform that kicking it out of our life is anything but easy.
What can be done is to attach filters in our mind and not let these tech giants influence our life, opinion and decisions.
Downside Of The Book
However this book is not an easy read. The author’s writing is good, but it is not without frills. There is a lot of build up, digression, repetition, conveying the same details in each chapter.
The best part were the prologue, epilogue and the speech of George Soros. These should not be missed if you wish to know how the Facebook algorithm works and why you should draw a line on your time investment into these virtual medium of socializing.
I usually don’t skim and read. I have a lot of patience. But with Zucked I did skip reading many portions as there was a lot of padding and less punch. The context could have been condensed for a slim read.
In spite of that it is a very crucial and useful book, if you want to understand how these social media sites works, how they trick you on giving your data, how they play with your psychology to keep you engaged on their sites, how they spy on your online activities, how they trick you in thinking that your news feed is in your control (which is not the case), how they make money by using your data and how impending is the social media threat.
Zucked is an eye opener. Something you already understand. But not ready to accept and take action. Regulation and accountability are needed to keep a tap on threateningly increasing power of social media.