Shouldn’t we better hand over the control of Facebook to the UN ?

I have just read The Hacker Way the letter to the shareholders of Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, and I must admit it scares me a lot.  What a naïf piece of prose! […] We don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services. .. We don’t wake up in the morning with the primary goal of making money, but we understand that the best way to achieve our mission is to build a strong and valuable company. Come on Mark, if you don’t care about money give it away to the people of Guinea in West Africa, they sure know better ways to spend money.  For example building a hospital where children can be helped to get an urgent operation to cure their burned esophagus due to unhealthy living standards in the neighborhood of bauxite mines.

However it is not that what scares me. It is the so-called hacker way that bothers me. According to Mark, The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete.

To my experience, a hacker does not encompass such noble goals. Hackers still believe that the Internet is some kind of protected space from the rest of society where different rules apply. At most the hacker is lead by a meritocratic drive that brings him in to actions which are not only unethical but also dangerous and in most countries also (luckily) illegal. Hackers do not aim for a higher social or collectively beneficial objective, but are more often than not sponsored by criminals or undemocratic regimes (are you reading this China?). What can we expend from a man that uses the metaphor of this behavior to motivate probably the biggest IPO in Western economic history? Arguing that this shows that companies are not the same as they were before – especially online companies, and that their organizational culture is different and also the competition has changed is a bit weak. All sorts of collectives are emerging out of the Web and some of them are evolving in good directions without a central control,  like the open sources communities and the new download business models tearing down the walled gardens of vested telecom operators but some collectives are definitely not. The Web has changed a lot – and in some ways, not for the better. The largest emergent collective is probably Facebook that has a clearly central control but which is exercised by only one person paying tribute to hackerism. This cannot be the business model that we all want for our new (social) digital world. The platforms by which we all like to share our thoughts amongst other things should be indicative for a conscientious and accountable online community. It is somehow unavoidable that these new communities suffer from the actions of a few willing to abuse the system. Even Facebooks is already invaded by false accounts and malware, and at serving what purpose? I can assure you that it is not for a continuous improvement and iteration nor is it to build something ‘better’. So what can we do? Mark will surely find his investors. But we, as the users, should at least be aware that we cannot give up our social identity to a sole commercial organization.

One solution may be finding better ways to govern the social community of online users. This time I plea for a central control body and governance entity that supersedes boundaries of organization, countries and even continents.  Could this be a new job for the United Nations?  I bet that China and Russia will veto this.

jan devos

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About jangdevos
I'm an IT/IS professor, a late Baby Boomer, married with Ann and father of Hélène and Willem, a Stones fan and interested in almost everything. I work at the UGent (campus Kortrijk), Belgium. My research domain are: IT Governance in SMEs, IT/IS Security, IT Management, IT Project Management, IT Trends and IT/IS failures.

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