"Who the #$@% is Roger McNamee?"

Revue
 
Mark Zuckerberg's nine-point plan to fix Facebook now has an eight-point companion piece from a highl
 

The Interface

January 8 · Issue #58 · View online
An evening newsletter about Facebook, social networks, and democracy.

Mark Zuckerberg’s nine-point plan to fix Facebook now has an eight-point companion piece from a highly critical early investor. In a long piece for Washington Monthly, Roger McNamee explains how he came to invest in Facebook in the first place — and how he became gradually more disillusioned with the service, until he came to believe it posed a major threat to democracy.
This story is useful because it answers a question some of us have been asking since McNamee began speaking out against the company, starting a small wave that eventually came to include like button co-inventor Justin Rosenstein and former Facebook head of growth Chamath Palihapitiya. The question is: who is Roger McNamee? 
Or, in the words of Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who is one of the 10 longest-tenured employees at Facebook: “I’ve worked at Facebook for 12 years and I have to ask: who the fuck is Roger McNamee?”
As McNamee tells it, in 2006, Zuckerberg invited him as a neutral third party to offer some advice. Along with U2’s Bono, McNamee is the co-founder of Elevation Partners, which is a private equity firm named after a U2 song. 
Throughout the piece, McNamee mentions various wild hunches that turn out to be true. His first such hunch, which he relates to Zuckerberg at their first meeting before Zuckerberg even tells him why he has been summoned there, is that someone — perhaps Yahoo — is about to offer Zuckerberg a billion dollars for Facebook, and that he should reject this offer. 
What ensued was the most painful silence of my professional career. It felt like an hour. Finally, Mark revealed why he had asked to meet with me: Yahoo had made that billion-dollar offer, and everyone was telling him to take it.
Zuckerberg was sufficiently impressed with McNamee that he offered Elevation a chance to invest in the company, which it took. McNamee says he spent the next three years mentoring the Facebook CEO, where among other things he helped to recruit Sheryl Sandberg to the company. “In my thirty-five-year career in technology investing, I have never made a bigger contribution to a company’s success than I made at Facebook,” he says. “It was my proudest accomplishment.”
Today, of course, he feels differently. Throughout 2016, he became disturbed by the peculiar intersection of Facebook and governance. He saw countless anti-Clinton memes and wondered where they were coming from. He was shocked that a majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union. 
He had a hunch.  
“I’m no expert on British politics,” he confesses, “but it seemed likely that Facebook might have had a big impact on the vote because one side’s message was perfect for the algorithms and the other’s wasn’t.”
He writes an op-ed expressing his concerns with plans to publish it on The Verge’s sister site, Recode, but pulls it out of deference to his friends at Facebook. And then Clinton lost and he became very upset. “The next day, I lost it,” he writes. “I told [Facebook vice president of partnerships] Dan [Rose] there was a flaw in Facebook’s business model. The platform was being exploited by a range of bad actors, including supporters of extremism, yet management claimed the company was not responsible. Facebook’s users, I warned, might not always agree. The brand was at risk of becoming toxic.”
At last ready to sound the alarm publicly, McNamee spent much of the next year working with Tristan Harris, of  Time Well Spent, and the independent researcher Renee DiResta. He presents the trio facing impossible odds, which seems strange given how readily their efforts have been received: “We recognized that our effort would likely be quixotic, but the fact that Tristan had been on 60 Minutes gave us hope,” he wrote.
Now McNamee has a list of formal — suggestions? demands? — for his old mentee. Some are strong; others barely cohere. His first suggestion is that Facebook “address the resistance to facts created by filter bubbles,” but says the company can do this by personally informing Facebook users if Russian propaganda reached them during the 2016 campaign. (“This idea … is based on experience with cults. When you want to deprogram a cult member, it is really important that the call to action come from another member of the cult, ideally the leader.” What?)
Other ideas seem more promising, notably ones that are not original to McNamee: offering users more insight into News Feed algorithms and why they’re seeing the posts that they’re seeing; making social network data portable to encourage competition; place limits on social networks trying to acquire other social networks. 
I share many of McNamee’s concerns about the ways in which Facebook is misused. But his tendency to see himself consistently as the sole person prepared to speak truth to power left me rolling my eyes. (As did his borderline-crazy request that Facebook create separate, forked versions of the platform every time it updates its end-user license agreement.) McNamee’s whole manifesto is worth reading, but it oddly makes him easier to dismiss.

Democracy
Tough new German law puts tech firms and free speech in spotlight
What I learned from three months of Content Moderation for Facebook in Berlin
Twitter Keeps Allowing Hackers To Run Malicious Ads That Offer To Verify People On Twitter
Twitter has quietly started verifying users again
Far Right Activist Charles Johnson Has Sued Twitter Over His Suspension
Elsewhere
One year in, Facebook Journalism Project gets mixed reviews from publishers
Facebook is shutting down M, its personal assistant service that combined humans and AI
iPhones and Children Are a Toxic Pair, Say Two Big Apple Investors
Here’s Tony Fadell, who worked on the original iPhone project before going on to co-found Nest and sell it to Google, on the suit: 
Tony Fadell
Adults are addicts - not only kids! & Google needs to help! Apple investors worried about smartphone addiction https://t.co/1SC0tXXchM @WSJ
9:42 PM - 7 Jan 2018
Telegram plans multi-billion dollar ICO for chat cryptocurrency
Google's Head of Product for Allo and Duo moves to Facebook
And here’s this about the forthcoming sequel to Vine, V2, from creator Dom Hofmann:
dom hofmann
will launch the v2 community forums on january 17 at https://t.co/SLrgiHozXt
6:10 AM - 8 Jan 2018
Launches
Facebook’s Oculus is launching a new VR headset in China
Facebook and Sony Music sign deal to let users legally upload songs in videos
Ripple, a Tinder spinoff backed by Match, launches app for professional networking
HQ Trivia launches UK version of the ultra-popular quiz game
Takes
Zuckerberg’s Dilemma: When Facebook’s Success Is Bad for Society
Mark Zuckerberg Essentially Launched Facebook’s Reelection Campaign
"Fire And Fury" Is The First Book Of The Post-Truth Social Media Era
And finally ...
Sarah Silverman's response to a Twitter troll is a master class in compassion
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? CES pitches that you would like me to delete on your behalf? casey@theverge.com 
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Carefully curated by Casey Newton with Revue.
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