There’s a difference. The New Yorker knows this. But, like Mark Zuckerberg, Conde Nast doesn’t care.
An immoral actor deliberately does things they know are wrong.
An amoral actor does things without regard to whether they’re wrong or not.
Facebook can’t afford to be moral. No tech company can. Creative destruction happens so fast I barely have time to call a company “clueless” before it faces the consequences. (Hello, Zillow.)
Corporate graveyards are littered with the molding corpses of companies that tried to defy this axiom. I have been watching tech for four decades now. It’s beyond obvious.
The New Yorker way to control morality in tech is through the government. But governments move slowly. Legislators can be bribed, trials dragged out. Even when government succeeds there are unintended consequences. Microsoft signed a consent decree in 2001 that nearly destroyed the company. It was only after it got out from under that it regained the executive agility needed to move toward the cloud. IBM was under consent decrees for decades, until 1996. They destroyed it. AT&T was broken up. It re-formed.
This gives a huge advantage to autocrats. China watched its tech market grow, free and unfettered, for decades. They witnessed the excesses, the monopolization, and one-sided deals. They saw how employees, customers and small businesses were being destroyed by companies like Alibaba and they acted. You may not like the actions, or how it all went down, but when the hammer fell there was no place for the oligarchs to hide.
Traditionally there’s a second way to control tech. The market. Millions have erased their Facebook accounts. But technology is global. Facebook is an essential utility in the developing world. In Africa, India, in Southeast Asia and much of Latin America, Facebook and Google are the free Internet. Cheap phones, cheap mobile phone bits, and free services raised a billion people out of abject poverty in the last two decades. You want to take that away from them?
Paying for services like news, storefronts or banking is a First World solution not available in Africa. In Nigeria, with the continent’s biggest GDP, the average person brings in $2,272 per year. As paywalls become the norm, only rich people can get information. That’s not a solution.
Fortunately, there’s a third control point for corporate amorality. That’s corporate stupidity. GE, IBM, Intel, and AT&T have all been brought low, just in the last decade, by corporate stupidity.
It’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s obsession with “the metaverse” that will be Facebook undoing. His captive market in the developing world can’t afford it. It’s just another paywall to someone in Zambia. Changing the company’s name just reminds Americans of what drove us away from it. You want to hammer into us that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp? Are you crazy?
During my career I’ve seen many companies outlive their usefulness before their founders retired. Remember Silicon Graphics? Remember Wang Labs? Great companies, run by great entrepreneurs, they missed the market’s changes and paid the ultimate price. There are hundreds of others every year.
Stupidity will take Mark Zuckerberg down, then the market will take him down, long before the government can get its pants on to stop him. Put that in your paywall and smoke it.