Yesterday, Facebook lost around $120 billion, and the internet cheered. That might sound like a nothing-burger like many of Facebook’s losses have been, but it wasn’t: It was nearly 20% of their total value (about as much as the entire worth of Mcdonald’s) and it disappeared in an afternoon, marking one of the biggest single-day collapses for a publicly traded company ever. After being marred by political, privacy, and even word-vomit scandals, Facebook’s invincibility finally fell away. And with their armor down, standing naked in front of the world, they finally learned the cost of all the problems they’ve caused.
But here’s an unpopular opinion: Months ago, after all of the Cambridge Analytica scandal had broken, and we already knew about their role in the election and fake news, Mark Zuckerberg told us all that he planned on significantly increasing Facebook’s investment in security, and would add thousands of new employees to help that cause. This is what he told the US Congress in April:
“I’ve directed our teams to invest so much in security — on top of the other investments we’re making — that it will significantly impact our profitability going forward.”
And then he added, for extra oomph.
“But I want to be clear about what our priority is: protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”
Many didn’t believe him. Many tweeted about all the times that he’s talked the talk, but not walked the walk. But yesterday, when Facebook faced the music and took $120 billion on the chin, the fact that Zuckerberg finally walked the walk was conveniently absent from the conversation.
Here is the unpopular reality:
Mark Zuckerberg told us all he would put our safety, and fixing the problems of Facebook ahead of profits. He did that. Wall Street may not have liked it, but there’s no way around it: the man held true to his word.
Facebook didn’t take that hit because of Russia, Trump, fake news, or anything else. The collapse began when Wall Street watched Zuckerberg keep his word, and actually put safety over his profits. Wall Street only cared because their days of astronomical —and as it turns out, dangerous—growth are behind them.
Mark Zuckerberg has made many mistakes, and we’ve all seen them. Some were made when he was just a kid in his dorm room, but some were made with all of the executive brain power, money, and resources the world could afford him. But know this:
There is no one on earth—not Tim Cook, not Bill Gates, not Donald Trump, not even the Pope—who can so directly and powerfully affect a third of the world’s population (2.23 billion monthly active users as of June 30, 2018) with the click of a button. Mark Zuckerberg has absolutely changed elections, hell—he has swayed all kinds of global events. But there isn’t a 34-year old on the planet who could have run a company this influential, and this large, to perfection. Or a 44-year old, 54-year old, or 64-year old. He may be naive, but the evidence that he’s actually malicious is flimsy, and often dressed in tin. For that, my friends, we are lucky.
And while those with Facebook stock are crushed today, those of us who have followed the Zuckerberg saga from the beginning have watched the world’s most powerful man grow up before our very eyes. He’s gone from the infamous sweaty-kid interview to testifying for hours in front of the US Congress while not blinking an eye (pretty much literally). He stood up for Black Lives Matter amongst his own ranks, and invited influential conservatives to Facebook when he found bias against them. He has gone from his “move fast and break things” mentality, to breaking the Wall Street bank with how much he’s unwilling to give up our safety.
Mark Zuckerberg is imperfect, naive, and sometimes overly defensive. He can be robotic, unrelatable, and frustrating. He could also be a whole lot worse.
Zuckerberg has made himself an easy target, and remember that for the rest of time he always will be. Long after he’s gone, he will draw the world’s ire and serve as a scapegoat for our problems, because that’s just how influential and powerful he is. But just as Facebook gave us Trump, it delivered us Obama. Just as Facebook pumped our feeds full of fake news, it also transformed the way real news is distributed, seen, and heard, and contributed to creating a global community that is more informed than its ever been. Just as it gives us bots, it connects us with long lost friends. Mark Zuckerberg is imperfect, like all of us, and what’s easy is berating him from the outside of the ring. But no one knows that ring—no one in history has ever even seen it. And while he deserves criticism, accountability, and honesty, I for one am glad he’s the one that’s in there.
This piece is the personal opinion of the writer, and doesn’t reflect the opinions of WIRED or any former employers.