Silicon Valley now has its own version of an executive whose embarrassing workplace conversations have leaked out thanks to an anonymous mole. (More on that mysterious person later.)
The executive, of course, is Mark Zuckerberg. On Friday, Casey Newton of The Verge published more than two hours of recordings he'd obtained from one of Zuck's regular meetings with Facebook staff, including much more candid remarks on a number of hot-button topics than he's ever given publicly. The Verge has published both an annotated version with audio clips and a text-based transcript, if you haven't had a chance to look yet.
Like all Facebook-related news these days, the public reaction was swift and mostly harsh. Twitter, of course, was one of the best places to behold all the agita. Below are some of my favorite tweets from prominent folks responding to the Verge's big scoop.
We'll start with a classy thread from Newton's competitor, Kara Swisher, over at Recode:
Swisher went on to note how confrontational Zuckerberg sounded about a potential move by Washington to break up Facebook, including a level of defiance absent from his polite public testimony to Congress recently. She offered this advice to politicians:
In particular, Zuckerberg lamented the possibility of an Elizabeth Warren presidency, which he said would "suck" for Facebook and pose an "existential" risk. The Massachusetts senator responded:
Speaking of protecting democracy, Zuckerberg took a jab at rival Twitter in the recordings. He noted that Facebook's spending on user safety and election security is greater than the whole revenue of Twitter, eliciting a laugh from the Facebook employees present.
Lara Cohen, Twitter's global partnerships lead, was not so amused, however:
Tech journalist David Dayen noted that a smaller competitor also seems to be on Zuck's radar these days as well:
As ever, Zuck's sheer arrogance came across loud and clear to many observers, including author Roxane Gay:
New York University business professor Scott Galloway, an outspoken advocate of breaking up Big Tech, honed in on Zuckerberg's growing and broad-based sociopolitical power:
Finally, it's also worth mentioning that Galloway recently pointed out on his podcast that a breakup of a tech behemoth like Facebook might actually be good for shareholder value, including the shares of employees. His says such a move could enable faster-growing units within these monoliths to be fully rewarded by the marketplace for their growth rather than having that growth lumped in with all the other parts of a bigger, more mature beast.
The post-breakup stock performance of, say, Instagram (now owned by Facebook) or YouTube (a Google property) or Amazon Web Services as standalone companies would likely beat that of their larger parents, Galloway says.
We've actually seen this sort of thing happen in the media industry the last few years as many conglomerates like News Corp. have spun off their low-performing print publishing operations to allow their holdings in TV and digital to shine on their own. So I think the professor has a good point.
It also strikes me that, for sheer gossip purposes, Galloway's theory may provide clues about who within Facebook leaked the new recordings of Zuckerberg. It's quite possible that some employee in Instagram or another high-growth unit who has stock options might've figured out that Zuck's commitment to preserving Facebook as a consolidated hegemon isn't really in the employee's best interests.
Perhaps that person then got a little "creative" in addressing the problem.
Header image by Benoit Bauzere via Unsplash.