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Mark Zuckerberg on Trial: Facebook is Damaging Society

According to his critics, Mark Zuckerberg presides over a company which is undermining our basic freedoms. But should we give him the benefit of the doubt as he seeks to rebuild the world’s trust in Facebook?

Zuck sucks. According to his critics, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, presides over a company which is undermining our basic freedoms. It was complicit in the spread of fake news and foreign interference in our elections, and is partly to blame for the rise of political polarisation through its echo chambers and filter bubbles. The company has been selling the private data of millions of users around the world to select companies – most notoriously Cambridge Analytica, who used the information to meddle in the US presidential elections and Britain’s EU referendum. And Facebook has been accused of behaving like ‘digital gangsters’ by the House of Commons Digital Select Committee, led by Damian Collins MP, who claimed Zuckerberg has willfully misled lawmakers over fake news and data malpractice. Facebook is built on an essentially unethical business model, and the buck stops with Zuck.

That’s the case against Mark Zuckerberg. But let’s keep things in perspective, say his defenders. Facebook has done more than any other organisation in the world to connect people through technology, allowing more than 2.2 billion users so far – that’s 30 percent of the world’s population – to share their lives with friends and family around the world – all for free. And let’s not forget that Facebook has been a vital tool for social and political organisation, from the Arab Spring to Obama’s presidential campaign. The world is a complex and messy place and while it’s convenient to scapegoat a single CEO for our polarised politics, the fact is there were multiple causes for Brexit and Trump. Of course, there are problems at Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg is keenly aware of them. In January 2018, he made a promise to fix Facebook, admitting that the organisation makes too many errors and listing his priorities as ‘protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent’. Much of what we are reading about Facebook is old news. Zuckerberg is essentially an idealist and we should at least give him the benefit of the doubt as he seeks to rebuild the world’s trust in Facebook.

That’s the argument of Zuckerberg’s defenders. But are they right? Join us on June 18, hear the arguments and decide for yourself.


Speakers For The Motion

Damian Collins

Chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe and chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. He has played a key role in parliamentary scrutiny of Facebook’s activities, including invoking a rare parliamentary mechanism to seize internal Facebook documents over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Nina Schick

Technology expert and advisor to former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Technology expert whose work focuses on how artificial intelligence is reshaping democracy and geopolitics. Her research has focused on next-generation disinformation in the form of AI-generated deep fakes. She worked on the UK's 2016 EU Referendum and on Emmanuel Macron's successful bid to become French President in 2017. She frequently appears as a contributor on Bloomberg, Sky and the BBC, and has been published by the Times, CNN, the Sunday Telegraph and the New Statesman.
Speakers Against The Motion

Dex Torricke-Barton

Former head of executive communications for Facebook

Former head of executive communications for Facebook. Over the last decade he has advised some of Silicon Valley's most prominent leaders and companies. He was Mark Zuckerberg's speechwriter from 2012-16, and was previously executive speechwriter for Google's Eric Schmidt. He was also head of communications for SpaceX, Elon Musk's rocket company.

Ed Vaizey

Former Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries (2010-2016)

Conservative MP for Wantage and Didcot, who served as Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries from 2010 to 2016 under David Cameron.

Helen Lewis

Journalist, author and broadcaster

Staff writer on The Atlantic and former associate editor of the New Statesman. She presents The Spark on BBC Radio 4, in which she interviews radical thinkers on their solutions to the structural problems of our age.  Her first book is Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights.


Speakers are subject to change.