I was all set to blog about the cold weather, but a friend of mine brought up a matter of concern. She received a chat pop up on Facebook that supposedly came from a reputable page but contained a link to a porn site. This kind of thing has been happening on the internet for years, but at this time, for this occurrence, my friend is directing all her vitriol at leveling the blame for the offense on the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, as if he personally sent the offensive link and several of her friends have joined the chorus.
There has developed in this country a tendency to forgo responsibility. We do not accept it for ourselves and we do not hold those accountable who should be. This trend has been going on with gun control and crime for years. Society has long insisted that if all guns were illegal, that crime would be a thing of the past. We could have a crime-free society if only there were no guns to be had, since obviously guns turn people into criminals and make them do heinous things. Never mind that criminals do not care if guns are illegal, since they plan on committing a crime with it anyway.
Mark Zuckerberg did not invent pornography. He did not invent the internet (Al Gore did, remember) and he did not invent personal computers. He did not modify the human genome to make people want to see pornography and he did not invent the myriad websites that offer it. Mark Zuckerberg developed a website that allows people to connect to old friends and make new ones from the millions of users that share interests. It wasn’t even a new idea; several other sites had been online for years from Yahoo 360 to Myspace to Classmates. Zuckerberg mearly made the one that more people like to use.
Did he do it single-handedly? Of course not. He built the original Facebook site, but the version that is online now is so far removed from the original as Windows 7 is from Windows 3. More people have had a hand in developing that site than the team that developed your cell phone. Does he even have a direct say in all the programming and coding that goes on? Doubtful. He’s a CEO—granted one of the youngest ever—but CEOs do not do nuts and bolts development work.
What is Facebook? Is it the most powerful website in the world? Does it have the power and ability to affect change on a global level? Many people are attributing the fall of the Tunisian government to Facebook, since the protesters used the site to publicize riots and protests. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak shut down internet and cell phone access to prevent rioters in that country from using Facebook and other social networks to coordinate activity. So, where is the power? Is it in the site? No. Definitely not. The power is with the users of the site. Those calling for the ouster of Mubarak will use any website they can. They used Facebook because of one thing: it has so many users. People hold the power and when a website has as many users as Facebook, the power of all those users can be intimidating. The power is not with the website, since a website—any website, even Facebook—is merely a collection of pages and data.
Zuckerberg started what many in the media are characterizing as one of the most important social events since the internet. The internet has been a darling of the media since it first broke out of the bonds of ISPs into its own entity. It has been touted as the most significant technological development and advancement for the world and can allow even the most remote disconnected communities to join the worldwide network of knowledge and communication. Lofty praise, to be sure, but it’s a bit naïve of an assessment at best. Anytime someone discovers a new way to reach people, one of the first users of that medium will be purveyors of pornography, followed almost immediately by someone trying to make money, and then someone making money off porn. They reach out in many ways from email, to instant messaging to chatrooms. People have developed several ways to prevent these unwanted spam messages, but no sooner does someone develop a plug than the mouse will find another hole.
Someone found a way to use facebook to send messages containing porn or porn links. Facebook has tools in place to prevent most of them, and I would imagine they are very successful, given the sheer volume of spam that my email filter catches. So, one link managed to get through the gauntlet and pop up because a hacker managed to exploit a hole in the system. This is not Zuckerberg’s fault. He did not engineer the hole. He did not initiate the link or build the porn site that the link points to, and contrary to public opinion, he does not make any money when something like this happens.
Sure, Zuckerberg is not hurting for money. Neither is Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or any of the other people who have created the tools we use to connect on the internet. But none of these people are to blame for the social ills that profligate on the net. Just as bad things happen in a mall, or on main street, bad thing happen on the net. We cannot blame those who create things when that which they create are used for nefarious purposes.
The movie “The Social Network” depicts Mark Zuckerberg as a geek or nerd with poor social skills. In fact, many who knew him have called him various negative names and assailed his character, but none of them have called him evil.
We simply must blame those who actually commit the offenses. Blame the person who sent the link. Blame the person who built the porno site. Heck, you can even blame Facebook friend who failed to keep their profile secure. But it is not Zuckerberg’s fault.