Zucked by Roger McNamee

Zucked by Roger McNamee with the subtitle Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe is a book I wanted to read, which I reserved at the library from last year, but with all the delays due to COVID, I only got it recently. Well, this was a bit meh. Some of the information he shares was new for me, as he offers an insight into what happens at Facebook. But the view is so biased that he completely misses the point, pretty much like Zuckenberg.

Zucked by Roger McNamee

McNamee invested in Facebook, but, somehow only in 2016 realised the company is not doing what it should. But he is also disappointed in the lack of whistle blowers at Facebook. Well, people have to work to eat and have a shelter, so there is very little incentive to do anything, especially when it looks like everybody knows but prefers not to talk and, of course, when it’s likely that nobody else would ever hire them again.

I said that the book is biased and misses the point. So, here is what he said at page 112:
“Prior to 2008, the tech industry maintained an especially low profile in Washington. All of that changed when Google…played a major role in Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, as did Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. Obama’s win led to a revolving door between Silicon Valley and the executive branch”
page 166: “Facebook may have bowed to the accusation of bias because of co-founder Chris Hughes’ role in President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2021.”

The most important thing is between pages 196 and 197:
The second whistle-blower from Cambridge Analytica, Brittany Kaiser, worked in the 2008 Obama’s campaign, voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016 (primary) and now, after working on Brexit and Trump’s campaign she “wanted to stop telling lies”, as she said the problem is that she was making excuses for “old white men”.
Here are more details: “On behalf of Obama’s re-election campaign, Hughes created an application that harvested friends data. The app differed…its true mission… – encouraging people to vote – was admirable”. Well, he says that data harvesting is wrong, but it doesn’t seem that he actually believes that. Also, encouraging people to vote is admirable if they are encouraging ALL people to vote, not just the ones who might vote for them, that’s not admirable, that’s campaigning.

Of course, the problem with democracy is that Facebook allowed Russian trolls (humans) and bots (automated) to help Trump win in 2016 and Brexit. So, the real problem is not when data is harvested, but when the other side is doing it better. Obama and people around his started this in 2008 and Facebook embraced it, that is the real problem. The fact that Trump’s men did it better than Clinton’s men is beyond the point. I wrote a quote on my review for The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff, which said that a campaigner knew who people are going to vote before they did, that person was working for Obama.

This is why allowing so much power to a few people in a couple of companies shakes democracies in western Europe. They are deciding who should be promoted and who shouldn’t. How is that democratic? Some guys in Silicon Valley do not know better than everyone else. That being said, I do recommend the book, it is easy to read, albeit a bit repetitive.

Zucked by Roger McNamee

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 3/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Penguin Press
Year it was published: 2019
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): IT
Pages: 336

About the author: Roger McNamee is an American investor and businessman and musician. He got his BA in History at Yale University and an MBA from Dartmouth College.
Roger McNamee was a founder of the musical group Flying Other Brothers who he toured with between 1997 and 2006, then with another group called Moonalice. In 2014 he formed a duo music group called the Doobie Decibel System. He was an early investor in Facebook, before he became very critical of its impact on society and democracy, especially in US.
Website & Social Media Links: –

6 thoughts on “Zucked by Roger McNamee”

  • I’ve never had a Facebook account, nor do I want one. My reasoning has always been that if I want to stay in touch with friends, I can do it the old fashioned way. (which includes email and texting… so perhaps not really old fashioned)

    I’m not sure how much I think FB influenced the elections. Many people (dare I say are idiots?) and will believe what they want to believe, whether factual are not. And I feel this has always been so, long before the advent of social media. It just makes it easier for them to connect with others who have the same beliefs. Common sense seems to be lacking in the world.
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    • I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, but I also use groups on different topics, from blogging to food. It’s helpful and annoying at the same time.

      FB creates echo chambers. For example, on Instagram I follow animal sanctuaries and vegan restaurants, that is showing a distorted view of society, which I am fully aware of but not all people are. After the 2019 elections in UK, someone commented that they were surprised Conservatives won such a big majority when they knew only people who voted Labour, which is surely not true as Conservatives got votes throughout the country. By not engaging with the “other side” people are getting more and more to the extremes, which is worrying.

      He published the book in 2019, before the pandemic, so the misinformation campaigns regarding covid did not happen. Those were just as terrible and there was Russian and Chinese involvement, as they benefit from people in the west not getting their jabs which leads to more lockdowns and so on.

  • I often wonder how much difference it really makes to the average voter. Pre-social media people read newspapers that confirmed their own worldview. Tories read The Telegraph, Labour voters read The Guardian, and so on. If you read either of these papers now, they are at least as biased and distorted as most of the stuff you see on social media. In fact if an alien was given both papers, I’m pretty sure they’d think they must be from different countries, maybe even different planets! Trying to find an unbiased news source is an impossible task.

    • The problem with Facebook is micro-targeting. This means that a candidate can “tell” me something, about climate change, for example, but something different, as in another topic, to another one, meaning that climate change, the reason I voted for that candidate was not as important as it seemed when I saw all the ads about their views.

      I agree with you that people are very happy to read views they already agree with. But, social media can create conspiracy theories, which means that people are less likely to trust journalists, especially as you said, reading those two papers offers a less clear view on truth as they are too biased. With that in mind, some people turn to things said by their bubbles, and that leads to things like low vaccine uptake in some communities for example. Russians tried to pay influencers from France and Germany to say Pfizer is dangerous. I imagine there are many others, like Iranians, Chinese, and North Korean, who are just as involved in spreading lies to destabilize the west.

  • Hi Anca,

    It sounds that your views about Facebook, pretty much reflect our own. I am not on it, but hubbie is, although only very rarely. He calls it ‘facade book’ because of how superficial people are and the rubbish that most of them post.

    He also has his own little conspiracy theory that facebook, in fact his mobile phone in general, is listening to his conversations and I am beginning to think that he does have a point. We can make a flippant, off the cuff comment, about something on the television, or just be having a general conversation about an completely innocuous subject and within a matter of minutes he will be getting adverts for something pertaining to whatever we have been talking about.

    It’s a shame that social media looks as though it is here to stay, the bad bits as well as the good. I am only pleased that I am the age I am, so that I don’t have to see how this all evolves going forward, because I don’t think I am going to like it much!

    Definitely not a book for me, it deserves to be burned – hypocrites the lot of them!! 🙂

    • He touches on that, listening to conversations. The phone are not doing that, but other gadgets are (smart TV, Alexa-type of devices). Your husband gets ads because Facebook and Google have so much data on people that they can predict what someone would search for because other people with similar values bought the same thing, at the same time. I am not sure which version is more creepy though.
      Facebook doesn’t track only what we like, but also what we dislike, tracks how much time we spend looking at a picture, and so on. What we don’t do is just as important as the things we do. I am on Facebook because it’s easier to connect with friends, but it gets harder and harder for me to justify being on social media when there are so many problems with it.

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