One of the Best Technology Books of 2020—Financial Times
“Levy’s all-access Facebook reflects the reputational swan dive of its subject. . . . The result is evenhanded and devastating.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“[Levy’s] evenhanded conclusions are still damning.”—Reason
“[He] doesn’t shy from asking the tough questions.”—The Washington Post
“Reminds you the HBO show Silicon Valley did not have to reach far for its satire.”—NPR.org
The definitive history, packed with untold stories, of one of America’s most controversial and powerful companies: Facebook
As a college sophomore, Mark Zuckerberg created a simple website to serve as a campus social network.
Today, Facebook is nearly unrecognizable from its first, modest iteration. In light of recent controversies surrounding election-influencing “fake news” accounts, the handling of its users’ personal data, and growing discontent with the actions of its founder and CEO—who has enormous power over what the world sees and says—never has a company been more central to the national conversation.
Millions of words have been written about Facebook, but no one has told the complete story, documenting its ascendancy and missteps. There is no denying the power and omnipresence of Facebook in American daily life, or the imperative of this book to document the unchecked power and shocking techniques of the company, from growing at all costs to outmaneuvering its biggest rivals to acquire WhatsApp and Instagram, to developing a platform so addictive even some of its own are now beginning to realize its dangers.
Based on hundreds of interviews from inside and outside Facebook, Levy’s sweeping narrative of incredible entrepreneurial success and failure digs deep into the whole story of the company that has changed the world and reaped the consequences.
The social-media behemoth Facebook comes across as an idealistic but also shady, exploitative, and increasingly beleaguered entity in this clear-eyed history. Wired editor-at-large Levy (Hackers) treats Facebook largely as a projection of its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, whom he has covered for many years. His Zuckerberg is a talented entrepreneur whose motto, "move fast and break things," encapsulates a strategy of rapid software development and innovative products; a corporate predator who buys or crushes rivals; an off-putting nerd given to silent, unblinking stares underlings call them "Eye of Sauron" as his mental gears grind; a megalomaniac who used to end meetings by yelling, "Domination!"; and a messiah of digital connectedness (that conveniently lets him monetize information on everyone). Levy had extensive access to Facebook employees and paints a revealing and highly critical portrait of the company as it wrangled with charges that it violated users' privacy by sharing their data with advertisers and political operatives, and served as a vector for manipulative fake news, pro-Trump Russian propaganda, and hate speech. Levy's critique of Facebook is broad, but not always convincing: he's hard-pressed to show concretely how Facebook's privacy breaches have hurt anyone, and he's dismissive of Zuckerberg's free speech concerns about censoring Facebook content. Facebook-phobes will enjoy Levy's rich account of the company's creepy doings, but his take on Facebook's social impact smacks more of anxiety than thoughtful analysis.