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An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination

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Award-winning New York Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang unveil the tech story of our times in a riveting, behind-the-scenes exposé that offers the definitive account of Facebook’s fall from grace. Once one of Silicon Valley’s greatest success stories, Facebook has been under constant fire for the past five years, roiled by controversies and crises. It turns Award-winning New York Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang unveil the tech story of our times in a riveting, behind-the-scenes exposé that offers the definitive account of Facebook’s fall from grace. Once one of Silicon Valley’s greatest success stories, Facebook has been under constant fire for the past five years, roiled by controversies and crises. It turns out that while the tech giant was connecting the world, they were also mishandling users’ data, spreading fake news, and amplifying dangerous, polarizing hate speech. The company, many said, had simply lost its way. But the truth is far more complex. Leadership decisions enabled, and then attempted to deflect attention from, the crises. Time after time, Facebook’s engineers were instructed to create tools that encouraged people to spend as much time on the platform as possible, even as those same tools boosted inflammatory rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and partisan filter bubbles. And while consumers and lawmakers focused their outrage on privacy breaches and misinformation, Facebook solidified its role as the world’s most voracious data-mining machine, posting record profits, and shoring up its dominance via aggressive lobbying efforts. Drawing on their unrivaled sources, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang take readers inside the complex court politics, alliances and rivalries within the company to shine a light on the fatal cracks in the architecture of the tech behemoth. Their explosive, exclusive reporting led them to a shocking conclusion: The missteps of the last five years were not an anomaly but an inevitability—this is how Facebook was built to perform. In a period of great upheaval, growth has remained the one constant under the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Both have been held up as archetypes of uniquely 21st century executives—he the tech “boy genius” turned billionaire, she the ultimate woman in business, an inspiration to millions through her books and speeches. But sealed off in tight circles of advisers and hobbled by their own ambition and hubris, each has stood by as their technology is coopted by hate-mongers, criminals and corrupt political regimes across the globe, with devastating consequences. In An Ugly Truth, they are at last held accountable.


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Award-winning New York Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang unveil the tech story of our times in a riveting, behind-the-scenes exposé that offers the definitive account of Facebook’s fall from grace. Once one of Silicon Valley’s greatest success stories, Facebook has been under constant fire for the past five years, roiled by controversies and crises. It turns Award-winning New York Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang unveil the tech story of our times in a riveting, behind-the-scenes exposé that offers the definitive account of Facebook’s fall from grace. Once one of Silicon Valley’s greatest success stories, Facebook has been under constant fire for the past five years, roiled by controversies and crises. It turns out that while the tech giant was connecting the world, they were also mishandling users’ data, spreading fake news, and amplifying dangerous, polarizing hate speech. The company, many said, had simply lost its way. But the truth is far more complex. Leadership decisions enabled, and then attempted to deflect attention from, the crises. Time after time, Facebook’s engineers were instructed to create tools that encouraged people to spend as much time on the platform as possible, even as those same tools boosted inflammatory rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and partisan filter bubbles. And while consumers and lawmakers focused their outrage on privacy breaches and misinformation, Facebook solidified its role as the world’s most voracious data-mining machine, posting record profits, and shoring up its dominance via aggressive lobbying efforts. Drawing on their unrivaled sources, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang take readers inside the complex court politics, alliances and rivalries within the company to shine a light on the fatal cracks in the architecture of the tech behemoth. Their explosive, exclusive reporting led them to a shocking conclusion: The missteps of the last five years were not an anomaly but an inevitability—this is how Facebook was built to perform. In a period of great upheaval, growth has remained the one constant under the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Both have been held up as archetypes of uniquely 21st century executives—he the tech “boy genius” turned billionaire, she the ultimate woman in business, an inspiration to millions through her books and speeches. But sealed off in tight circles of advisers and hobbled by their own ambition and hubris, each has stood by as their technology is coopted by hate-mongers, criminals and corrupt political regimes across the globe, with devastating consequences. In An Ugly Truth, they are at last held accountable.

30 review for An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I don’t know if this substantially added anything to the conversation about Facebook and Zuckerberg that hasn’t already been said.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    “If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.” We pay for FB by having our personal information sold to whomever wants to target us. For a small sum, you can target your post or ad, to a certain demographic audience, in a certain area. It's effective for finding crooks, making targeted commercials and milking the users, who should spend as much time as possible on the site. I was at a real estate agent the other day and he said "I don't think we need to ad “If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.” We pay for FB by having our personal information sold to whomever wants to target us. For a small sum, you can target your post or ad, to a certain demographic audience, in a certain area. It's effective for finding crooks, making targeted commercials and milking the users, who should spend as much time as possible on the site. I was at a real estate agent the other day and he said "I don't think we need to advertise in the paper, targeting the right audience on FB works really well". In this case of course, I hope it will be for my benefit. At the instance I was a little bit surprised, I had forgotten. Even if there isn't much new material in this book, if you have followed Facebook's issues the past few years, I found it comprehensive and insightful. Of course, it made me promptly want to delete the app permanently - but how would I otherwise keep track of family and friends strewn across the globe? So I won't. I am however, very mindful of what I post and have restricted Facebook's access to tracking me across websites. However, I suppose they collect it anyway. One thing I keep finding disturbing, but which isn't really discussed in the book, is how things I have only discussed keep coming up as ads on FB. That is, things I have not googled or searched for anywhere, but talked about within "earshot" of my mobile and its ever present algorithms. The main problem with our current life style is that machine learning knows more about us than we do about ourselves. There is also a real danger of being the weaker party. For years, FB would refuse to fact check anything, or even attempt curtail outright lies. If you can make lies viral, well, you're just using your right to free speech according to Zuck. This has changed recently, but how well it holds up will depend on who is sitting the oval office. Facebook's main purpose is their bottom line and that is all.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Okay, so this book doesn't contain many facts about facebook that I hadn't heard or read before. BUT!!! The authors of this book present a huge cohesive background report on the character of the company, formed by the characters of its leader(s). Also, the book refrains from petting facebook on the head and saying all of its downsides are unintentional side effects of the way it's been constructed. These two authors prove that whatever downsides facebook has - hate spreading, incenting violence, Okay, so this book doesn't contain many facts about facebook that I hadn't heard or read before. BUT!!! The authors of this book present a huge cohesive background report on the character of the company, formed by the characters of its leader(s). Also, the book refrains from petting facebook on the head and saying all of its downsides are unintentional side effects of the way it's been constructed. These two authors prove that whatever downsides facebook has - hate spreading, incenting violence, fake news spreading with all due consequences, influencing people's moods - is as intentional as can be. Conscious decisions are taken about every one of those issues. Decisions that always favor the amount of time people spend on facebook. Hate and negativity keep people there longer and get them more involved on the network, so it is NOT banned. Instead groups are now favored in which hate, fake news and incenting violence can go on uncontrolled and uncorrected by a larger society - all this with even graver danger of things getting out of control in real life. The network influences our society, our politics, our willingness to defend ourselves against a virus and even our willingness to commit crimes - against individuals, against peoples. And none of that falls outside the vision of facebook's leaders like some authors suggested, for instance the author of "Zucked", who suggested that it was all just an unintended side effect that facebook's leaders didn't have a clear notion of yet. The research done for this book proves that there's no such thing as naivity involved here. At all. It may not be intentional, but it sure is taken in their stride and the world just has to put up with it until lawmakers do something about it. Which will be....never? Readers who are looking to find new juicy facts might be let down by this book. Not very much tea here. But if you're looking to get a better understanding of how the mechanism of one of the world's greatest companies works and what the cost of that is for the user, this book is highly recommended. It takes Sandberg and Zuckerberg out of the shadows and puts them in broad daylight so we get to see a clear picture of who they are, what drives them and thus, what we can expect from them in the future. Should we, the readers, still be on facebook? That question sings in the back of our minds throughout the book, which doesn't answer it for us, by the way. This book was not written to drive people away from it, but rather to urge parties involved to stop the ad-based and therefore algorithm workings of the platform. And, as there are no real alternatives, who dares make the jump anyway? On the other hand, this book gives clear insight into the fact that instead of devoting our time, attention and energy to a social platform, we are really involving ourselves deeply with an advertising platform. Zooming out that far, does that really make facebook unmissable in our lives? Great book. Well written. Audiobook version well read and good and not-repetitive content with a solid base of thorough research. update 11 august 2021: I am leaving facebook. The contents of the book have sank in fully and the scales have tipped to the leap side. I was an early adopter of the internet and social media and now I will be an early adopter of a facebook-less life. Early, because I think it's a movement going on. Uncontrolled growth in cells is cancer - lethal. I wonder what uncontrolled growth does to a "social" media platform, the people on it and the people who are not even on it at all. I'm not the only one leaping. I find myself in good company of artists, musicians, readers and thinkers who also dare ask themselves some questions. Does anyone dare take the leap, I wondered in my review? And if not, why not? What are we telling eachother and ourselves? Was there no life before facebook? Is there no life after facebook? I'm going to find out. Update 1 September 2021: After 9 days of dopamine-shortage cold turkey my life and energy came back. Only once did I miss fb when I had difficulty finding a friend’s contact info outside the platform, but that solved itself within 20 minutes. Do I miss anything apart from that? No. After the first 9 days a facebookless life feels like pure bliss. Calm, focused and way more deeply connected with real life. Not missing a single thing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    Facebook is constantly in the news, and they’ve made the topics of privacy, data, misinformation, and ethics a global conversation. Prior to this book, I hadn’t heard of Sheera Frenkel or Cecilia Kang’s writing, but I’m now officially a fan. They’ve been working on this book for years while also reporting on all of the news surrounding Facebook, and they managed to put together an incredible story while working from opposite sides of the country during the pandemic. I usually find books like the Facebook is constantly in the news, and they’ve made the topics of privacy, data, misinformation, and ethics a global conversation. Prior to this book, I hadn’t heard of Sheera Frenkel or Cecilia Kang’s writing, but I’m now officially a fan. They’ve been working on this book for years while also reporting on all of the news surrounding Facebook, and they managed to put together an incredible story while working from opposite sides of the country during the pandemic. I usually find books like these dull to read, but these two are incredible writers, and they were able to hold my attention throughout the book. They discuss the beginnings of Facebook and the origin of Sheryl Sandberg joining the company and dive into all of the major stories since Facebook’s inception. What separates this book from others on this topic is the insane amount of research these two put into this book. They conducted hundreds of interviews with current and former Facebook employees to paint a comprehensive picture of what was going on behind the scenes and some of the ethical issues Zuckerberg and Sandberg face. While both Kang and Frenkel express their personal opinions on Twitter, they did an excellent job simply presenting the story with this book so you can form your own opinions about Zuckerberg, Sandberg, and the company as a whole. Due to the extensive amount of interviews, you get to hear what many of the employees were thinking, discussing, and debating during each of the stories, and that was probably my favorite aspect of the book. As an optimist, I always believe people join companies and start companies with good intentions, but the nuance of these stories show us how things gradually go sideways. I don’t have many (if any) criticisms of this book except there wasn’t really anything major that I didn’t know. As someone who has followed each Facebook scandal over the years, I had a decent idea about most of the stories. Before reading the book, I was wondering if they’d be able to tell me anything I didn’t know already. I think where this book shines is within the fact that Frenkel and Kang were able to fill in some details that we often don’t hear about in the mainstream, and they were also able to give voices to those who have been trying to do the right thing from within the company. And if nothing else, this is a great historical documentation of the company, so for anyone who isn’t “in the know” and future generations doing research, this is a perfect book for these readers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Keith Swenson

    What the ***** was Zuckerberg thinking when he decided that a president has a special dispensation to spread misinformation and posts designed to motivate people to violence? Well, this book does a pretty good job of covering the background and providing a good understanding of the options available. Zuckerberg, always a proponent of free speech, figured that the lies would be recognized as such, and that people would sort out the truth. I think we all had this delusion. Nobody expected a presid What the ***** was Zuckerberg thinking when he decided that a president has a special dispensation to spread misinformation and posts designed to motivate people to violence? Well, this book does a pretty good job of covering the background and providing a good understanding of the options available. Zuckerberg, always a proponent of free speech, figured that the lies would be recognized as such, and that people would sort out the truth. I think we all had this delusion. Nobody expected a president to run an effective campaign to brazenly manipulate a democratic vote to stay in power. And nobody anticipated a person with a mastery of social media to form the kind of cult of personality that Trump has. Indeed social medial played a role. Zuckerberg and Sandberg unwittingly also played a role. An Ugly Truth is a well written accounting of the background of Facebook, as it evolved through the the introduction of social media to culture, and up to the crisis on 2016. The writers researched it well, and the story is told in an engaging way. I personally think we will look back on the 20-teens as a time when people engaged in "unsafe social media" sort of like smoking in the 1960's. What were we thinking? We need "protection" but we currently have no idea what that protection will be. Will a fact-checker do the trick? But how do you know that your fact checker is not a fake fact-checker? The story is not over. Now Facebook has banned Trump, but what will stand as the policy? What is the right thing to do for other questionable politicians? Does this kind of ban represent a loss of free speech? How can we guarantee open discussion, without the danger of the brain washing algorithms? The book does not have these answers, but I highly recommend it as a way of understanding the background and the setting that we find ourselves in. Very interesting, and very timely.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Nixon

    4.5 stars If you have a Facebook account, you should read this book. If you want honest elections or are an ally to BLM, you should read this book. A few “spoilers” - any Facebook employee has access to your personal information, including what you say in Facebook messenger to others. Indeed, engineers are regularly fired for “snooping” and using that information (eg engjneer finding out where a girl he likes hangs out so he can be there) - Cheryl sandberg is not a feminist; rather she’s a patriarch 4.5 stars If you have a Facebook account, you should read this book. If you want honest elections or are an ally to BLM, you should read this book. A few “spoilers” - any Facebook employee has access to your personal information, including what you say in Facebook messenger to others. Indeed, engineers are regularly fired for “snooping” and using that information (eg engjneer finding out where a girl he likes hangs out so he can be there) - Cheryl sandberg is not a feminist; rather she’s a patriarch alley that only cares to make money. I feel validated for my review of Plan B more than ever. - Facebook ran tests with putting happy or positive things in news feeds or negative. Because negative made people stay on longer, Facebook went with that. Yes, that means Facebook purposely shows you the worst shit to make you depressed and scared so you’ll stay on longer. - Facebook made an intentional exemption to allow Donald trump and other “political figures” to post anything, even it if was factually invalid. - Facebook helped trump get elected in 2016 - Facebook allowed trump supporters and pacs to post fake news or false “ads” willingly because #money (they also refused to take them down because #money) - mark is trying to rewrite facebooks history. Facebook was not created for free speech or libertarian whatever. It was created to rate girls as hot or Not. - Mark seems to have a Napoleon complex. “Why don’t people treat me like bill gates?” 🙄 Based on the human rights issues brought up in this book that I’ve not included in my review, I am going to be #deletefacebook Although I have not used the platform personally in more than 3 years (during which time my mental health greatly improved) I have maintained a professional page, which I am now in the process of removing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Great read. Facebook is evil.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ben Rogers

    Pretty shocking read. I find it hard to see anyone using Facebook after reading this. It was a well researched book - not as well researched as the Amazon book - Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire. This was a particularly important read too. Some really eye opening bits. 4.7/5 Pretty shocking read. I find it hard to see anyone using Facebook after reading this. It was a well researched book - not as well researched as the Amazon book - Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire. This was a particularly important read too. Some really eye opening bits. 4.7/5

  9. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    If you’ve read the news over the last decade, you’ve read 90% of what’s included in this book. The authors offer almost no guidance on what to do about the many problems Facebook faces - election interference, misinformation, privacy, audience manipulation, and corporate governance. Fairly disappointing.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    Obviously a lot of Facebook is just people posting pictures saying “look at me, look at this beer I’m drinking at this restaurant with this dog”, but there is also a real danger in this platform. The issue is not that the vast majority of people in the world are inherently awful, but that the vast majority of people (including me) are prone to some level of thought manipulation, and a social network like Facebook gives a small minority of baneful actors “the greatest propaganda machine in histor Obviously a lot of Facebook is just people posting pictures saying “look at me, look at this beer I’m drinking at this restaurant with this dog”, but there is also a real danger in this platform. The issue is not that the vast majority of people in the world are inherently awful, but that the vast majority of people (including me) are prone to some level of thought manipulation, and a social network like Facebook gives a small minority of baneful actors “the greatest propaganda machine in history” (to quote Sacha Baron Cohen). The cost of that has already played out all over the world, so even if it’s not the majority of what happens on Facebook, it’s fair to make it the entire subject of this book. I can acknowledge that a lot of good happens on Facebook and even sympathize more than most with the general impossibility of creating some perfect algorithm that deletes everything fake or malicious immediately. But when Zuckerburg makes decisions to just throw his hands up and not even try, like he did when he decided political ads wouldn’t be subject to fact checking, it’s hard to defend. I also think it’s hard to read this book and not acknowledge the role capitalism plays in all this. This entire ethos of “Talk about how you want to make the world a better place but actually pursue growth at any cost” is not just what capitalism rewards, but basically what it demands? In one story in the book, they literally do an experiment labeling things “good for the world” and “bad for the world”, then prove that they have the ability to demote “bad for the world” content in the News Feed, and Zuckerburg says no because the “good for the world” content results in shorter session lengths from users. Even if the reporters got the reasoning for that decision wrong, it speaks to the general decision making hierarchy going on here, where Zuckerburg will monitor metrics like “do users think Facebook is good for the world” and “do users think Facebook cares about them”, but those are always secondary metrics below growing engagement, even if that means amplifying divisive and dishonest content. And his tunnel visioned pursuit of growth while being willfully naive about the implications to the world continues to be financially rewarded. Companies that buy ads on Facebook have done a few notable boycotts, but ultimately as this most recent Q2 2021 Earnings Call showed, they’re going to keep buying ads from Facebook, even as the price goes up, because it’s just a much more effective way to sell to targeted users than placing an ad in the New York Times. In regard to this book itself, if you’ve kept up with the stories in the news, there might not be a ton that is new, but I found it engaging and learned a lot. I think it is very impressive reporting, if they got it all right. There’s a lot of descriptions from very private meetings that must have been incredibly hard to get and hats off to the authors for doing that work. I feel like they got Zuckerburg generally correct, but am less sure about the depiction of Sheryl Sandberg. As Kim Elsesser in Forbes pointed out, the quotes in the book “call (Sandberg) out for behavior that would likely go unnoticed if it came from a male leader”, including yelling, not befriending every single female employee, being over prepared at a Congressional hearing, etc. The authors also portray her as afraid to challenge Zuckerburg and clinging to her power as second in command, a position which they allege she is losing. I could easily see Sandberg being more direct with Zuckerburg in one on one meetings, rather than the big meetings that the authors had sources in.

  11. 4 out of 5

    David Dayen

    Also will be part of an upcoming review. I have to say I didn't get much out of this book. A lot of it was "here's stuff we put in our news stories" and "here's a speech Zuckerberg or Sandberg gave that I was at." I also am starting to have real problems with the generated hysteria over speech. In general I think that Facebook's harms are completely misplaced in this book. The "business profile" book has become such a trope that it's hard to pull away from it. I do sympathize. Also will be part of an upcoming review. I have to say I didn't get much out of this book. A lot of it was "here's stuff we put in our news stories" and "here's a speech Zuckerberg or Sandberg gave that I was at." I also am starting to have real problems with the generated hysteria over speech. In general I think that Facebook's harms are completely misplaced in this book. The "business profile" book has become such a trope that it's hard to pull away from it. I do sympathize.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Yi

    Nothing but a laundry list of past criticisms from NY Times organized chronologically. The book doesn’t add any new arguments or insights to current conversation, nor does it dive deeper to understand and discuss the tech powering content moderation. The bottom line is just Facebook is evil because its core algorithm is evil.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    Want to read something super rage-inducing? Well, have I got the book for you! An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination charts the Facebook's growth and high profile mistakes over primarily the later Obama and Trump presidencies. The highlights I was pretty aware of when news broke of leaks (Cambridge Analytica), privacy concerns, when Zuckerberg testified before Congress, its role in international violence (Myanmar), and their complicity with the Russian hacks in politics. While Z Want to read something super rage-inducing? Well, have I got the book for you! An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination charts the Facebook's growth and high profile mistakes over primarily the later Obama and Trump presidencies. The highlights I was pretty aware of when news broke of leaks (Cambridge Analytica), privacy concerns, when Zuckerberg testified before Congress, its role in international violence (Myanmar), and their complicity with the Russian hacks in politics. While Zuckerberg's face is cover of the book, if one flips it over, Sheryl Sandberg's face is on the other side. The authors really focus on both of their flaws and systemic issues with the company and its leadership/mission. A emblematic example of the culture of Facebook is that Sandberg's conference room is called "Only Good News." Leadership does not want to hear about problems, and they are not proactive with addressing potential issues that can arise from their software. There is a divide between the engineers (Zuckerberg's side) and the business side (Sandberg's side) and the sides appear to be quite territorial/fractured. Mark appears unwilling to take part in topics that don't interest him, leading to him being SHOCKED when things happen he is not clued in on. Facebook tends to see issues as one-offs, and fix them as they come in, and not systemic problems to address. The willful ignorance on the consequences of their work is infuriating. The company comes across as just not caring about the ramifications of their program, and more concerned with growing their reach and the time people spend on their website. I am 0% upset about leaving Facebook years ago. Super toxic.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Chandler

    As someone who deleted my Facebook account 5 years ago over frustration with Facebook selling my contact info to politicians (Beto, you had a lot of supporters who wanted to tell me how great you are), I expected to enjoy this book and be astounded at how truly aweful facebook was. I had already read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism" and was ready to hate Facebook even more. But . . . I had heard it all before. Sure, this book had a lot of sources to give the behind the scenes of the dirt, but As someone who deleted my Facebook account 5 years ago over frustration with Facebook selling my contact info to politicians (Beto, you had a lot of supporters who wanted to tell me how great you are), I expected to enjoy this book and be astounded at how truly aweful facebook was. I had already read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism" and was ready to hate Facebook even more. But . . . I had heard it all before. Sure, this book had a lot of sources to give the behind the scenes of the dirt, but what I got was what? Zuckerberg is an introverted geek genius who wanted Facebook to grow? Sheryl Sandberg is a smart cutthroat business woman who seemed out of touch with common people? Is this news? There was a bit of massaging of the story to highlight the "Zuckerberg is Evil" theme that is unnecessary. Twitter and instagram profit just as much from bringing out the worst in people, and they aren't run by Zuckerberg, but we are led to believe that Zuckerberg is different. That Facebook is different. That Zuckerberg's views on free speech was just a convenient stance for someone who wanted to profit from misinformation. Free-speech viewpoints touted by the likes of John Stuart Mills (it sounds like what Zuck follows), while not popular in certain zipcodes , have a strong philosophical foundation and were developed to help society, not profit from it. And Facebooks wishy wash responses to certain free speech/misinformation issues weren't indications of Facebook's reluctance to do the "right" thing- they were a perfect example of how business are bad at doing lots of things, like reading the room. Monitoring free speech fairly is basically the hardest thing in the world to do. And there aren't universal rules that people over the world will agree on. And even if you could agree on a set of standards, the level of monitoring required to police the platform would destroy the profit margins, leading to more privacy violations or the elimination of the platform as a free product. These are all tricky problems, but instead of considering this, it just turns into another Trump basher. Expected more.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rick Wilson

    A negativity oriented reporting job on FB from the mid 2010’s to now. A surprisingly condemning view of Sheryl Sandberg and her enabling role in the recent fiascos FB has had. Nothing particularly new on a conceptual level. FB incentivizes metrics at odds with the well being of its users. Time spent on the platform is the almighty North Star and that time can involve anything, from conspiracy theories to organizing militias. Facebook doesn’t care unless it results in negative PR. The book itself A negativity oriented reporting job on FB from the mid 2010’s to now. A surprisingly condemning view of Sheryl Sandberg and her enabling role in the recent fiascos FB has had. Nothing particularly new on a conceptual level. FB incentivizes metrics at odds with the well being of its users. Time spent on the platform is the almighty North Star and that time can involve anything, from conspiracy theories to organizing militias. Facebook doesn’t care unless it results in negative PR. The book itself is well written and well organized. There is an impressive level of access. As my friend Ross on here has said “it’s like trying to write about WW2 in 1944.” There’s still so much to be written. As it stands. Interesting negative read. I’m not sure I’m walking away from this one significantly better informed beyond the increased conviction that FB is a serial “we’re sorry, we won’t do it again” violator.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Grant

    Frenkel and Kang have crafted a very solid book that deftly navigates a number of issues without getting bogged down in unnecessarily details. However, my struggle with this book is with scope. Do you evaluate a book strictly based on the scope its authors set, or is it fair to criticize a book for having too much focus? An Ugly Truth thoroughly succeeds in all the areas you would expect, and it's an evenhanded critique that shows examples of Silicon Valley ignorance and arrogance through the act Frenkel and Kang have crafted a very solid book that deftly navigates a number of issues without getting bogged down in unnecessarily details. However, my struggle with this book is with scope. Do you evaluate a book strictly based on the scope its authors set, or is it fair to criticize a book for having too much focus? An Ugly Truth thoroughly succeeds in all the areas you would expect, and it's an evenhanded critique that shows examples of Silicon Valley ignorance and arrogance through the actions of one of its most dominant behemoths. The book hits all the major plot points one would expect given its historical focus, and even though many of these incidents are familiar, the book will still serve as a helpful recap and help shade in some of the details that contemporaneous coverage may have lacked. Sheryl Sandberg now feels a lot more three-dimensional to me, and the book also fleshes out Facebook's rogue's gallery of top ranking executives, notably Kaplan. It helpfully points out the company's relentless lobbying in Washington and how it kowtowed to right wing interests and failed on diversity even while presenting a sunny California image. The writing is straightforward, conversational without being too casual, and nicely narrated in the audiobook version. For better or worse (mostly better), it reads like what you'd expect from New York Times reporters. That is also where the problems come in, as does the question of scope. Politically [to me as a left-of-centre Canadian], this book is what I expect from New York Times reporters. There's a little too much emphasis on Russiagate, and not enough willingness to engage with some of the broader problems of Silicon Valley, venture capital, and surveillance capitalism. Obviously that's a lot of ground to cover, and people like Shoshana Zuboff or Rana Foroohar, among others, have written thorough books about the industry. Facebook is only one of the tech giants, but it's still an example of many of its vices and worst problems. The book is a little reticent to call out many of the ways the company mistreats workers, such as the horrible conditions and lack of mental health support faced by many (subcontracted) content moderators that have been well-documented in other publications. While Facebook's WhatsApp and Instagram acquisitions are nicely discussed, there isn't much coverage of how it liberally photocopies features from competitors in attempts to kill them, such as the thievery of Snapchat's stories feature, or more recent mimicry of Substack and Clubhouse, etc. It's a good book, but it's just not as pugilistic as I think we should want our tech coverage to be in 2021. Forget WhatsApp and Instagram antitrust: should companies like this even exist? But that may be a matter of this book being a work of journalism rather than of criticism.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I cannot imagine how anyone who reads this book could continue to use Facebook.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sharla

    It's well-reported, thorough, and interesting, but I was a bit disappointed to see that the book does not address other critiques of social media (i.e. health, crime, trafficking, etc) to focus solely on politics. Also, I wish the authors had attempted to be more prescriptive in their reading of Facebook. It's well-reported, thorough, and interesting, but I was a bit disappointed to see that the book does not address other critiques of social media (i.e. health, crime, trafficking, etc) to focus solely on politics. Also, I wish the authors had attempted to be more prescriptive in their reading of Facebook.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Delete your Facebook.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gokul Nath Sridhar

    This is a moronic book written by someone who's woke and who obviously has a bias against technology / capitalism and it tries to paint Zuckerberg as an entitled idiot. Is he entitled? Sure. Is he an idiot? No. Should they have listened to Stamos and done better? Surely. But should they also have Kaplan and the likes on the team? Absolutely. Should they have deleted misinformation? Absolutely not. This is a moronic book written by someone who's woke and who obviously has a bias against technology / capitalism and it tries to paint Zuckerberg as an entitled idiot. Is he entitled? Sure. Is he an idiot? No. Should they have listened to Stamos and done better? Surely. But should they also have Kaplan and the likes on the team? Absolutely. Should they have deleted misinformation? Absolutely not.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sravya

    It is a revision of all major events. But engaging and interesting nevertheless.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Saumya Srivastava

    An Ugly Truth by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang is an exceptionally very well written and researched book about Facebook and Mark Zukerberg Battle for domination. For the past several years, Facebook is always up in news for something notorious, whether it is invading the privacy of the user or influencing voters in the USA election or spreading the fake news to make some extra bucks. Zukerberg strategy is always to come up, and apologize for every tragedy and be the same as he was before. Cam An Ugly Truth by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang is an exceptionally very well written and researched book about Facebook and Mark Zukerberg Battle for domination. For the past several years, Facebook is always up in news for something notorious, whether it is invading the privacy of the user or influencing voters in the USA election or spreading the fake news to make some extra bucks. Zukerberg strategy is always to come up, and apologize for every tragedy and be the same as he was before. Cambridge Analytica, which worked with the Trump campaign, had obtained Facebook profile data on millions of users to target voters, and Zuckerberg was under enormous pressure from politicians and the public to provide answers. But he passed the test without much difficulty because the lawmakers asked him the question which he was easily able to answer and he hid behind the technical jargon, which our lawmakers were naive about. Somehow, Facebook even seems to make money off near-disasters. The company has put growth and profits above all else, even when it was clear that misinformation and hate speech were circulating across the platform and that the company was violating the privacy of its users. Facebook has struggled on taking the side of any one political party, trump extreme comments which are against certain races and certain religions, and how to delt with them. Despite all this, nearly 3 billion of us visit the site regularly, without giving much thought to what’s happening behind the scenes That battle was fought on defence and through improvisation, as the company hustle went from one crisis to another, fighting the problems down as they arose and then apologizing for whatever harm they caused. My review First of all, Hats off to Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang for their beautiful writing style which at no point felt awful and the second thing is, The number of efforts they both have put up, in-depth research and conducting research and interviewing Facebook employees I want to write an in-depth review of this book, discussing each and every aspect of this book but I don't want to give away all the essence this book holds for its reader. My youtube video on this book will be out soon, so please stay tuned !!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    This book is a must-read for everyone. The NYT reporters who wrote it spent a decade interviewing current and former Facebook employees, including people in Zuckerburg's and Sandberg's orbit. They give a behind-the-scenes look at various crises that arose and how decision-making within the company exacerbated them. This book refutes the common impression that Mark Zuckerburg created a project with such a scope that it simply outpaced him; to the contrary, it shows how at times Zuckerburg or Sher This book is a must-read for everyone. The NYT reporters who wrote it spent a decade interviewing current and former Facebook employees, including people in Zuckerburg's and Sandberg's orbit. They give a behind-the-scenes look at various crises that arose and how decision-making within the company exacerbated them. This book refutes the common impression that Mark Zuckerburg created a project with such a scope that it simply outpaced him; to the contrary, it shows how at times Zuckerburg or Sheryl Sandberg's leadership failures were entirely preventable. Facebook's role in creating and amplifying genocide in Myanmar was particularly gut-wrenching. I recommend this book to anyone with a career in the tech world, and anyone in a senior role in a company or government, because this is also a primer in how not to lead and make decisions. Although this is not its mission, this book makes a solid case for the heavy regulation and/or breakup of companies with this much power. It shows the danger in giving free reign to otherwise intelligent people who lack a knowledge of history or the ability to grasp how their decisions are impacting our system of government. This book is a real-life 1984.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    Like! Lots of insider baseball and plain ol’ infield dirt from behind the scenes at Facebook. And In my opinion , the juiciest parts were about Sheryl Sandberg, who up until now, must have a pretty effective PR team working on her behalf with her virtual coronation since Lean In. I’ve always been interested in her career trajectory and thus book provides the perfect example of the higher they climb, the harder they fall. I doubt any of these Facebook execs could have predicted the way their pion Like! Lots of insider baseball and plain ol’ infield dirt from behind the scenes at Facebook. And In my opinion , the juiciest parts were about Sheryl Sandberg, who up until now, must have a pretty effective PR team working on her behalf with her virtual coronation since Lean In. I’ve always been interested in her career trajectory and thus book provides the perfect example of the higher they climb, the harder they fall. I doubt any of these Facebook execs could have predicted the way their pioneering technology could be manipulated by people for propaganda and worse. Of course, they’d blame Parler, Gab or Putin for the worst of it 😂. Now that the kraken has been released, things will never be the same. Zuck’d say what a crazy idea-but he should be saying you’re welcome, world! 🤥

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brian Asalone

    well worth reading. The influence of this company is truly unprecedented, almost 1/3 of the planet's population. Unfortunately what gains eyeballs is more radical, shocking content, regardless of veracity. The company, under zuckerberg continued to allow toxic content to grow the company and viewership and, critically, advertisers. they routinely lied about steps they were taking and zuckerberg resisted suggestions to modify and control the posting as well as the newsfeed, if it negatively impac well worth reading. The influence of this company is truly unprecedented, almost 1/3 of the planet's population. Unfortunately what gains eyeballs is more radical, shocking content, regardless of veracity. The company, under zuckerberg continued to allow toxic content to grow the company and viewership and, critically, advertisers. they routinely lied about steps they were taking and zuckerberg resisted suggestions to modify and control the posting as well as the newsfeed, if it negatively impacted facebook usage. This one company may have critically affected the 2016 election and given Trump the presidency.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emanuele Gemelli

    One should be always wary of books that have "truth" in their title and the reading of this book confirms it. Facebook has been, is, an agent of disruption in our society, both for the good and the evil, however, this book does not add that much to that, more than "corporate gossip". What I mean is this matter, to be really understood, should be treated by sociologists, ethnographers and anthropologists more than by two, I guess good, journalists, which are only reporting anecdotes, etc. No trut One should be always wary of books that have "truth" in their title and the reading of this book confirms it. Facebook has been, is, an agent of disruption in our society, both for the good and the evil, however, this book does not add that much to that, more than "corporate gossip". What I mean is this matter, to be really understood, should be treated by sociologists, ethnographers and anthropologists more than by two, I guess good, journalists, which are only reporting anecdotes, etc. No truth is coming from this and this is a truism

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joey Nedland

    Ah, man. I appreciate that this book is well-researched; Frankel and Kang have published a narrative on the building of Facebook with a focus on its misfires on privacy and monopolization of social media/advertising, with Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg serving as the main characters. It’s not much ‘new’ content, and the writing of NYT reporters gets so frustrating. The authors love inserting inane but hyperspecific details (“the group ate fish and chips and enjoyed draft IPAs”, “he was wear Ah, man. I appreciate that this book is well-researched; Frankel and Kang have published a narrative on the building of Facebook with a focus on its misfires on privacy and monopolization of social media/advertising, with Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg serving as the main characters. It’s not much ‘new’ content, and the writing of NYT reporters gets so frustrating. The authors love inserting inane but hyperspecific details (“the group ate fish and chips and enjoyed draft IPAs”, “he was wearing a navy merino wool sweater”), but all I could think was ‘who gives a shit!!!!’ I appreciate that this likely requires diligence and persistence to accumulate, but the book leaves me wondering why I needed to read it in the first place. Wouldn’t recommend.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Junye Huang

    It’s clear from this book that most of the problems in Facebook is due to Mark Zuckerberg and his limited understanding in humanity and society, over confidence and reliance in technology and most importantly the lack of empathy and responsibility. On the other hand, we cannot rely on the good wills of the people in a private company to do goods for the society. We need good regulations in place to restrict their bad behaviors. However, as it’s mentioned in the book, the legislation process is c It’s clear from this book that most of the problems in Facebook is due to Mark Zuckerberg and his limited understanding in humanity and society, over confidence and reliance in technology and most importantly the lack of empathy and responsibility. On the other hand, we cannot rely on the good wills of the people in a private company to do goods for the society. We need good regulations in place to restrict their bad behaviors. However, as it’s mentioned in the book, the legislation process is clearly can’t keep up with the pace of technological advancement.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marco Hokke

    A very telling book about how Facebook is run. Profit and growth are the only things that matter. Almost nothing of what this book shows this is surprising, but what did strike me as a bit off was Zuckerberg's position. For all his intellect, vision, and drive, he seems incredibly naive about what forces Facebook can amplify when its use is not somewhat moderated. He has fought and resisted every attempt at regulation. One may begin to wonder if his words on freedom of speech are sincere. A very telling book about how Facebook is run. Profit and growth are the only things that matter. Almost nothing of what this book shows this is surprising, but what did strike me as a bit off was Zuckerberg's position. For all his intellect, vision, and drive, he seems incredibly naive about what forces Facebook can amplify when its use is not somewhat moderated. He has fought and resisted every attempt at regulation. One may begin to wonder if his words on freedom of speech are sincere.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    There are a few tidbits that are "eye-brow" lifting ...but all in all much of this book has been in the news. We all know how Facebook operates ...connecting people but also profiting off them! I #DeletedFacebook. There are a few tidbits that are "eye-brow" lifting ...but all in all much of this book has been in the news. We all know how Facebook operates ...connecting people but also profiting off them! I #DeletedFacebook.

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