Everything was on the table — and after Facebook’s wildest year yet, that’s a really big table.
Yesterday, I motored my Ford Fiesta down to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., to interview CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg.
I had not done a formal interview with Zuckerberg since he appeared at our D: All Things Digital conference in 2010, when the company was in its early days. Now, Zuckerberg was ensconced in a massive building with a garden on the roof, part of an even larger campus that sprawled all over and was still growing.
Also growing? Increased scrutiny and criticism of the social network Zuckerberg had built into a behemoth.
It’s well deserved given the sloppy way the company has handled a range of issues of late, including not monitoring how user data was abused by Cambridge Analytica, not stopping the Russians from manipulating the platform in the 2016 elections and allowing false news from suspect publishers like Infowars to be distributed on the platform.
The controversies have landed Zuckerberg and Facebook in hearings here and in Europe and have tarnished his nerd-god image.
In this 90-minute interview we talked about a range of things, from news to data to privacy to China to his political ambitions. As you will hear, Zuckerberg can cling closely to talking points, but he also did reveal more than he has about this annus horribilis for him and, well, the rest of us.
While many are justifiably angry at him and at Facebook, I decided to not strafe the billionaire entrepreneur. I tried instead to engage him in a conversation about how he has mishandled his growing power and responsibility and what he planned to do about it.
I think the interview gives a picture of an earnest and canny tech leader who is also grappling with the darker side of his creation. At one point, I asked him who was to blame and who should pay the price for the Cambridge Analytica controversy and he rightly named himself, as the person who invented Facebook. “Do you want me to fire myself on this podcast?” Zuckerberg joked. Spoiler alert: He did not.
Unfortunately, we did not get to every topic. We did not touch on the important issues of diversity, tech addiction and other issues that I hope to get to discuss with him in our next interview.