Depending on who you ask, Mark Zuckerberg is either the boy-wonder billionaire of the tech world or a shark-eyed sociopath who will sell your digital persona to nefarious Russian oligarchs. Either way, he’s a 33-year-old tech dude with too much money and a penchant for Ayn Rand, therefore you can’t expect too much from him in the way of empathy.
So when it came to light this week that he’s been deleting his own sent messages from Facebook — something that users themselves can’t do — nobody was exactly surprised. But the news comes in the middle of a category-5 shitstorm for Zuckerberg thanks to the 87 million accounts affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and it has only made Facebook’s problems worse.
What happened is: if you’d had a chat with Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook and went back to look at it recently, you would’ve noticed that it appeared like a one-sided conversation as Zuck’s answers were cleared. This is a feature only available to Facebook’s top brass: regular users don’t have that feature. Indeed, quite the opposite is true: every single click you’ve ever made on Facebook is recorded. So this action sends the message to regular users (and everyone else) that Zuck and crew are somehow above everyone else.
Facebook was quick to say that the reason for Zuck’s missing messages was due to increased security after the 2014 Sony hack where the South Korean tech behemoth’s private emails and communication — some of which was definitely not meant for public consumption — was aired out to dry by North Korean hackers objecting to the release of the Seth Rogen and James Franco movie The Interview, the plot of which focuses on killing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It’s fair to say that if Facebook wasn’t embroiled in the Russiagate scandal that this ol’ “message erasing” thing probably wouldn’t be big news. But in the context of today’s headlines, it couldn’t come at a worse time for both Facebook and Zuckerberg as it makes both Mark… and his company… look like they have something shady to hide precisely at the point when all the world is watching.
Lest we forget, this is the same Mark Zuckerberg who, in 2004, called users who gave him their data “dumb fucks”. And while it’s safe to say we’ve all moved on spiritually and intellectually from 2004, perhaps some regulation is in order.