Mark Zuckerberg is upset.
All he wanted to do is harvest your private data and sell it to the highest bidder. And now everyone is mad at him. (What gives, guys?)
In a watery op-ed published in the Washington Post over the weekend, Zuckerberg executed one of the most lackluster attempts at passing the buck I have ever seen in my life.
Too long, didn’t read: Zuckerberg’s piece can be boiled down to, “We don’t want to police our own platform. People get mad at us when we try. The government should do it instead.”
A change of character
Facebook has spent millions lobbying against anti-privacy laws. But as of late, its billionaire CEO has become a champion for online privacy for no apparent reason.
(*Cough* Cambridge Analytica *cough* government probes *cough* doesn’t want to go to jail.)
In his article, Zuckerberg called for global regulation of the internet, identified four key problems that need to be addressed, and made some suggestions on how to fix these problems.
This is a bit like El Chapo telling the DEA how to police the Mexican cartels. But let’s hear the little lizard man out.
1. Hateful and Violent Content
In recent years, Facebook has taken flak for allowing hate speech and terrorist propaganda on its platform.
But when it finally stepped up to the plate and tried to stamp it out, Facebook was accused of over-policing and snuffing out free speech.
Zuckerberg doesn’t like it when people are mad at his little data harvesting machine, so he wants to pass the buck to the government.
“One idea is for third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content and measure companies against those standards,” says Zuckerberg. “Regulation could set baselines for what’s prohibited and require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum.”
Great idea, Zuck! Hand over the reins of free speech to the government. Because that specific idea has never backfired in the course of human history before.
2. Election Integrity
Zuckerberg has admitted in the past that his platform was used to meddle in elections around the world.
(Zuck’s about-face on the issue of privacy was likely motivated by Congress dragging his ass to Washington and forcing him to explain about election meddling on live television.)
In his op-ed, Zuckerberg said that Facebook has tried to put a system into place to identify election meddling on Facebook. But he says it’s also not very good.
“We built a searchable archive that shows who pays for ads, what other ads they ran and what audiences saw the ads. However, deciding whether an ad is political isn’t always straightforward. Our systems would be more effective if regulation created common standards for verifying political actors.”
Mark’s solution? Regulation that clearly defines what constitutes election meddling.
That way Facebook is simply enforcing someone else’s rules. (So you can’t get mad at Mark if you don’t like it.)
3. Privacy and Data Protection
Zuckerberg, the great privacy violator, would like stricter privacy laws (as long as they don’t actually do anything).
Mark would like the rest of the world to regulate privacy and data just like the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“New privacy regulation in the United States and around the world should build on the protections GDPR provides,” says Zuckerberg. “It should protect your right to choose how your information is used — while enabling companies to use information for safety purposes and to provide services.”
This seems like a major concession at a glance. But for anyone even slightly familiar with the GDPR, it’s obvious why Zuckerberg loves the GDPR.
The GDPR is what you get when you have people who know nothing about the internet writing laws about the internet.
- Allows Facebook to appear to be concerned about your data, while still allowing it to harvest it in droves.
- Legally covers Facebook’s ass. If someone accuses Facebook of misusing the data it can simply point to the law (which allows the company to do what it likes as long as it covers certain bases).
All Facebook had to do after the law was passed was add a simple agree-to-data-sharing button, some paper-thin parental controls, and a privacy settings menu that most people don’t know exists.
Technically, you can use this settings menu to customise how you’d like your data to be shared. But since nobody really knows about it Facebook gets to reap all the data it likes. And now Facebook’s ass is covered by the law.
Mighty big of you, Mark.
4. Data Portability
Data portability is the ability to move your data between apps.
Zuckerberg initially introduces this as a “problem.” But in the actual op-ed, Markie boy goes on to say how great data portability is and how everyone wants it.
He just wants the government’s rubber stamp to allow Facebook to share data across apps (like to WhatsApp and Instagram, which are both owned by Facebook).
Facebook’s investors and users don’t see eye-to-eye
It looks like Facebook’s investors are buying Mark’s shtick for now. Facebook’s stock rose about 1% when the markets woke up this morning.
But investors don’t hold Facebook’s future in their hands. The next generation of social media users do.
And boy, they do not like Facebook.
According to a Pew study released last year, the rate of teens using Facebook is plummeting.
Between 2015 and 2018 the number of U.S. teens who use Facebook plunged dramatically from 71% to just 51%.
So where are all these teens going?
According to our tech expert James Altucher, a new social media alternative has ripped teen attention away from and it’s growing explosively.
“The biggest companies in the world are already scrambling to get into this explosive opportunity, which already has a market larger than Facebook!” says James.
“While the rest of the world was distracted by Facebook getting slammed by regulators… and dealing with its troubling privacy breaches and info leaks… this underground opportunity was rapidly building an army of raving cash-paying customers…
“In short: This tiny, little-known company is the critical linchpin of a “Social Media Killer” that could soon replace Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on Wall Street.”
This “Social Media Killer” is presenting a chance so unique that even richest-chump-in-the-world Jeff Bezos couldn’t ignore it. Amazon recently invested nearly $1 billion for a spot on the ground floor of this explosive revolution.
De Becker Says Bezos Pecker Pics Leaked By Saudis to David Pecker
Whew. That is a tongue twister.
Not exactly up to the Associated Press’s standards for headline writing. But I thought this story could do with a more National Enquirer-esque headline.
In case you didn’t catch my drift:
Jeff Bezos’s private investigator, Gavin De Becker, claims that images of Amazon CEO’s penis were hacked from his phone by Saudi Arabia and handed off to American Media, Inc. (AMI) chairman David Pecker. (Universe, why do you make me write these things?)
De Becker laid out his case in an op-ed of his own this weekend (which was conspicuously kept out of the pages of The Washington Post) on the Daily Beast.
De Becker wove a gripping tale of international espionage, linking the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman to Bezos’s penis pics. But unfortunately (is unfortunately the word I’m looking for here?) his story was light on any actual evidence.
Bezos’s investigator alleged that the hack was direct retaliation for the Washington Post’s coverage of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the crown prince, was lured to the Saudi Arabian embassy in October of last year, where he was murdered and dismembered with a bone saw.
Bin Salman claims to have had no knowledge of the operation prior to the murder. (And because I like to keep my limbs and penis pics to myself, I have nothing to say about that.)
American Media for their part maintain that they received the Bezos leaks from Michael Sanchez, the brother of the woman he was cheating with. And while that seems to be part of the truth, Sanchez claims that there were no images in his leak — only texts.
Which begs the question: where did the pictures of Bezos’s penis come from?
De Becker claims that AMI actually sent him and Bezos an eight-page contract about the pictures.
If they signed it, AMI would not release the Bezos pictures. But de Becker would have to make a public statement saying that his investigation had concluded there was no “form of electronic eavesdropping or hacking in [AMI’s] news-gathering process.”
If true, this is presumably around the time when Bezos made his Feb. 7 announcement that AMI was trying to blackmail him with compromising photos of his affair.
If de Becker can actually produce this contract, it wouldn’t look good for AMI. But until he can, or any other actual evidence, de Becker’s article should be filed under “Opinion”.
Do you think this Saudi Arabia Story holds water? Is this petty revenge for newspaper coverage of a brutal murder?
Joe Was Biden His Time… but #TimesUp for Biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is already in trouble.
Over the weekend, Lucy Flores, a former Nevada state assemblywoman, accused Biden of inappropriately touching and kissing her at a Democratic campaign rally in 2014.
I say “accused,” of course, but come on…
Joe Biden only does creepy stuff in public when surrounded by dozens of cameras.
Flores alleges Biden grabbed her by the shoulders from behind, kissed her on the back of her head, and smelled her hair. And I don’t doubt for one second that’s probably how it went down.
Biden has a storied history of strange, overly-intimate public encounters.
It’s the guy’s M.O.
In the past, Joe’s allies have come to his defense, reframing his inappropriate touching as innocent, grandfatherly affection. But I don’t think that argument will hold water in a post-#MeToo world.
Flores’s account of the event shifts the focus away from Joe’s intent, saying the encounter made her feel “gross, uneasy, and confused” — regardless of what Biden intended.
If the Dems want Biden as their candidate, they’re going to have to do some mental gymnastics to reconcile Joe’s behavior with the last two years.
And if they do, can you imagine the debates? Jeez, Trump would tear old Biden a new one.
What do you think? Innocent grandpa? Gross and weird? Are the Dems who defend him hypocrites?
BREAKING: As we go to print, another woman comes forward with allegations against Biden. “It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,” Amy Lappos told The Hartford Courant. “He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.”
One Last Thing
Warren Buffet’s Insurance Plan
Last week, in this very space, we were forced to face reality.
There is a retirement crisis coming. And the vast majority of people who will be retiring in the next few years are not prepared for it.
Now, we could just sit back and let it happen. But that’s not our style. (Well, it might be my style. But luckily for you and me, I have a team of researchers that are a lot smarter than I am.)
I asked our investment expert James Altucher what we could do to help future retirees earn money fast. And he suggested we take a page out of the book of one of the all-time greatest investors, Warren Buffett.
You see, about 15 years ago, James was writing a book on Buffett. He spent hundreds of hours interviewing people who knew him, worked with him, and had done business with him, trying to understand the mind of one of the best investors of all time.
“Throughout the conversations, a theme began to emerge,” says James. “Focus on income. More than anything else, Buffett loves cash-producing businesses because they allow him to quickly reinvest in more cash-producing businesses. Over time, Buffett was able to use this strategy to compound his investments into billions of dollars.”
For most people, doing what Buffett has done seems impossible. And sure, the majority of people won’t make billions of dollars using this strategy. But we can apply the same lessons to build a small fortune that grows over time.
“As I researched the book, I continuously asked myself, how can anyone generate income that they can reinvest to compound over time?
“For Buffett, the solution was clear: insurance.”
Insurance, Buffett reasoned, produces more cash than just about any other business.
Insurance policyholders (many of whom are required to hold policies) pay a fee to the insurance company every month to protect them against future risk.
For many of these people, there is virtually no risk involved. Providing auto insurance to a 45-year-old soccer mom who has never had an accident, traffic ticket, or fender bender is virtually guaranteed profit for the company as long as she remains a customer.
Meanwhile, for the bad drivers, you can charge higher premiums since you’re arguably taking on more risk.
Either way, you win.
Now, when James first told me this I was a little confused.
I mean, what was the advice here? Go out and start an insurance company?
Obviously not. But that didn’t mean James hadn’t a plan.
We’ll get into that more tomorrow. And James should have a full report ready for you by the end of the week. Keep an eye on this space.