Review: Mark Zuckerberg Inside Facebook BBC2

Mark Zuckerberg Inside FacebookMark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook BBC2, December 2011

The BBC’s Emily Maitlis reports on life inside Facebook, with a rare interview with Zuckerberg himself.

A non-controversial re-cap of Facebook’s creation skipped over the court cases surrounding the intellectual property, skipped over the accuracy of The Social Network movie and focussed instead on Facebook’s plans to use the personal information it has collected to power the new wave of on-line advertising. If you thought Google advertising was a license to print money, take a look at the unseemly scramble presented by the goldmine of Facebook’s user data; all information freely given by a needy, nerdy and emotionally insecure human race…

In just seven years, uber-geek Mark Zuckerberg has taken The Facebook from Harvard college dorm to 800 million user, $100 billion business. Facebook is the cornerstone of the Social Web and is dominating human social interaction and business. You can’t open a paper, magazine, turn on the TV or any other web-site without a Facebook page address and ‘Like’ button somewhere in front of you.

With 400 million users logging on for between 30 minutes and four hours per day, commerce is invading Facebook. 35 million Facebook users clicked the ‘Like’ button for Coca Cola. Doubtless to receive a life time of Coca-Cola adverts on their Facebook page. It’s a double-hit; pervasive, brand re-enforcement advertising for the converted, plus peer-pressured brand exposure.

This was the knock-down punch landed by an unusually toothless Maitless, a mere fifty minutes in. Maitlis raised the ethics of the ‘Like’ button driving peer-pressure, networked advertising with Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s Vice President of Public Policy who floundered around as if he’d never even thought about this before. “Let’s pause,” he said, “You’re asking a profound question… What’s advertising?” before failing to answer it, hesitantly regurigtating marketing-speak such as “affirmative linking” and “ranking mechanisms”

It simply cannot be that Facebook hasn’t a detailed policy on the exploitation of its social network for commercial gain; this is why Zuckerberg set it up in the first place. I think the company just doesn’t want to reveal just how exploitative its’ relationship with it’s users can be. This documentary just made the staff look goofy and naive, which they clearly are not. It’s worrying then that all the staff gave the sunny impression they are performing a massive social good.  “We’re better if we’re more open and connected,” said the Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, an optimistic staffer poached from Google. “My life is improved by knowing what you’re doing.” Really? One of us needs to get out more.

Maitless’ few minutes with Zuckerberg showed he remains the geek at the keyboard “We don’t want you to spend more time on Facebook; we want the time you spend on Facebook to be so valuable you come back every day.” But valuable to whom?

With an overdue stock market flotation finally expected in 2012 (but ‘Zuck’ is in no hurry), a rapidly expanding “ecosystem” of games manufacturers, targeted ad agencies and people who “ghost-write” pages for various businesses, the Facebook permeation of daily life and commerce is only just beginning.

Meanwhile Zuck managed to spout “cool” and “awesome” a lot and left Maitless to trail around the office looking at his empty office chair and pointlessly recounting pool parties and barbecue ashes at the Palo Alto house where Facebook was developed after Harvard. As a slightly more expensive student dorm, it was hardly rock and roll excess.

Any serious re-tread of the court cases or The Social Network movie were clearly verboten and the BBC is smart enough to pick it’s legal battles; Dominic’s dodgy builders, okay; trading standards cases are cheap. Facebook’s well-practiced, multi-million dollar legal team? The BBC decided to stay well clear. AJS

Reporter: Emily Maitlis
Director: Charles Miller
Producer: Charles Miller
Assistant Producer: Jo Hicks
Running time: 1hr
BBC Two Sun 4 Dec 2011 21:00
BBC Two Mon 12 Dec 2011 23:20

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