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On October 4th, 2021, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were all down for most of the afternoon. Meanwhile, Paul and Rich recorded this week’s episode to discuss the outage and the ongoing allegations against Facebook. They also draw parallels between regulating Facebook and regulating the tobacco industry and share their hypotheses on how Facebook got to the point of overlooking the safety of its users.

Transcript

Paul Ford You never spoke to it. It really is wonderful. But anyway, go ahead.

Rich Ziade Oh, no, no, don’t do that, Paul. Don’t do that. Okay? [Paul laughs] 

[music ramps up, plays alone, fades out]

RZ Paul.

PF Richard.

RZ Today the sun is shining a little warmer across the world. 

PF Yeah, that’s climate change.

RZ No, it’s not climate change. We’re not doing that right now, Paul.

PF Okay, we’ll come back to that.

RZ Neighbors are peeking over their picket fences and saying hi to neighbors.

PF My neighbor just greeted a bluebird and waved at me. I don’t know what’s happening.

RZ Forrester just came out with a report that eye contact amongst humans went up 62% today. Do you know why?

PF I don’t. But somebody just came up to me on the street and said, “I like you.”

RZ Did they give you a thumbs up?

PF He did. He gave me a thumbs up.

RZ Okay, so here’s what’s happening. Facebook, as of this recording—we are recording Monday, October 4th, 2021. It’s 3pm on the Eastern Time Zone. Facebook is down.

PF Yes! YES! Yes! Yes! We did it!

RZ Paul. No, no.

PF We did it. Oh, thank god, Rich. Shut it all down. We did it. It’s so great. I’m so happy.

RZ First of all, my mother is going to call me in a few hours and say “Why aren’t you responding to me? Are you mad at me?” [Paul laughs] So that’s a problem. That’s a separate issue that I’m gonna have to deal with. Okay? Listen, Facebook’s down, which means Instagram is down—actually usually doesn’t mean that. It’s kind of wild that it’s across their properties. WhatsApp I believe is also down.

PF That means the entire construction industry is shut down. 

RZ I mean, Whatsapp is actually, in a lot of countries, it is the primary means of communication. Now, but here’s what’s crazy, Paul, it has been a hell of a few weeks for Facebook. And the timing of this is kind of wild, because yesterday, last night, I was watching 60 Minutes in my retirement home. And a woman named Frances Haugen was on the show, being interviewed. She worked at Facebook, she was on their like civil civic duty team, like trying to make sure that the platform is being used for positive things.

PF Facebook has more, “let’s stay ethical initiatives,” and they have like that board.

RZ She was trying.

PF I don’t know any company that has had so many efforts to self regulate.

RZ Well, I mean, you got to get ahead of it. Right? They have that oversight board.

PF Like 30% of Facebook is now people whose job is to keep Facebook from truly destroying the world.

RZ Do you know how many stuffed animal gifts have been sent to the oversight board from Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg? Many, many, like baskets of fruit and cheese. It just goes on and on. Anyway, so this woman went to Facebook to actually make it better, to make it good for the world.

PF Yeah I looked her up on LinkedIn. I mean, she was at Google. She was at all kinds of places, like a real product manager type.

RZ Data scientists.

PF Also very California, like she knows what’s up. She knows how these companies work. You know, she worked at giants that have huge, complicated relationships with all kinds of entities like government and citizens. This wasn’t news to her that Facebook had some problems. 

RZ That’s right. And she was pursued by Facebook. And she said only if I get to work on making Facebook good, better for people, better for the world.

PF I’m sure they’re like, absolutely, we’re gonna do that for you, that’s exactly what we want to hear.

RZ Exactly. So I’m watching this interview yesterday. And she’s on there. And she said, “You know, I just saw that they, you know, there really wasn’t strong organizational intent to do right, that they lost their way.” So what does she start doing? And this is a very big, very brave thing to do, to be perfectly frank.

PF She really—she Snowden’d it.

RZ She just started copying everything. At the lunch room, all these USB drives would fall out of her pocket. And people are like, wow, that’s a lot of USB drives. And she just got a trove of information and just felt that okay, if I’m going to do this, I got to get everything, which she reveals and she’s leaked them out to the Wall Street Journal. And yesterday, she came on 60 Minutes and this week, she’s testifying in front of Congress. Essentially, that Facebook knows that they are fine tuning their algorithms to amplify anger, hate divisiveness. And she said, look, I’m not gonna sit here and posit that there’s ill intention or evil intention or anything like that. But the reality is, anger works, fury and rage works. And I want to shift gears, Paul. I want to talk about sensationalism. And I want to talk about the things that we’ve seen that we see and we kind of take for granted, but they work really well when they can get you fired up. I’ll kick it off, Paul. 

PF Okay.

RZ The WWE Formerly known as the WWF.

PF Wrestling.

RZ Wrestling, like not professional wrestling, but like they pretty much fess up that it’s a show. It’s obviously fake. But what it’s about is creating villains, getting people riled up.

PF Big oiled up guys fighting as sort of fundamental forces.

RZ You know, they had those folding chairs that they’d smash on each other, but they were clearly made out of some other material that nobody got hurt. And so that’s an example. I’ll give you another one. The weigh in. You ever see the weigh in before like an MMA match or a boxing match?

PF Yeah, just everybody’s just talking, just angry.

RZ Just staring at each other. And sometimes the managers have to keep them apart, because they’re gonna jump each other’s necks, and it’s creating a narrative, a story, right? And actually, every frickin’ movie ever made, where there’s an action hero, we got to get you to hate something, and then we’re gonna have, we’re gonna have that hero show up and turn the corner and save the day, right? This is something very fundamental and basic about humans.

PF You don’t need movies. I mean, this is every political speech is about what they don’t want you to do, what they don’t want you to think and how we’re going to get it together. And we’re going to really change things for the better. And sometimes that can be very, very well intentioned, like, they don’t want you to have good jobs. Or sometimes it can be really bad. Like, they don’t want you to storm the Capitol. Pissing people off and getting them to kind of connect to each other and pledge their allegiance to each other. It’s just like—what I’m about to say is something silly. It’s a power move. It’s the true power move.

RZ It is the true power move. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist. I don’t know what it taps into. I think it taps into the same brain chemistry release that, “Hey, did you hear? David and Cynthia are getting divorced.” I think it’s not that different than that. Maybe amplified. Gossip. Gossip rags.

PF Yeah. But also I think we feel really good when we know where the territory is. And then we’re on the inside. That’s a big part of it, too. Right? Like, that’s Nuremberg, right? You see the rally and everybody’s like, poof, boy, it’s nice to be inside that column of lights.

RZ Yep. So what we can’t deny is that humans have this weakness. Let’s call it a weakness. Maybe that’s not the right—

PF No no, it’s the weakness. Sometimes we use it for good, but boy, when it backfires, it backfires to World War II levels.

RZ That’s right. And when it’s exploited—I mean, when you say I mean, talk about World War II, a lot of what prefaced World War II was exceptional mobilization of interests by hating something, something else, anything else, right? So here we are. And so this is something that is inside a human nature, we’re not going to deny that. And now you’ve got this platform, 4 to 5 billion users.

PF God, is it really up that now? 

RZ It is up to that, right?

PF It’s more of humanity than it isn’t. 

RZ It’s more of humanity than it isn’t. That’s right. And the platform, let’s state out loud, Facebook’s business model. It’s not a subscription service. They sell advertising, and they sell advertising against engagement. And they’ve found that if you push those buttons, that stoke anger, that stoke frustration that stoke divisiveness, there is more engagement. So now Facebook is left with a quandary, right? Well, I’m going to call it a quandary, they kind of decided, very clearly, that we are going to optimize for engagement. And what the papers that have been leaked show is that they know it, that they know that the platform’s algorithms perform way better in terms of engagement, if you can get people fired up.

PF Right, so let me give this back to you. So they basically have said, you know what, that’s what the people want, give them what they want, they’re gonna keep looking at it, give them what they want, and sell ads on top of it. And yeah, they get angry, and they do all kinds of weird stuff. But frankly, that’s not our problem. Our problem is to deliver eyeballs to our advertisers, and we’re the best at it. 

RZ That’s right.

PF Which in the abstract, just sounds like kind of any media hustle. But the problem is, I think you’ve got a scale here that’s unprecedented. You know, so, you know, when I’m reading this stuff, it’s like, well, Instagram is really bad for the self worth of teen girls. And it’s like, that’s actually the problem is at this scale. It’s not like well, you know, we’re magazine, we publish makeup tips, and you know, some people have some real problems with what we do, and then you kind of work it out over time. The problem is that the majority of teen girls are on the platform.

RZ They are and they’re keeping score on the platform, right? And I think the implications here are no longer, wow we’re hating each other more, or wow that politician is exploiting it. I can’t see another news report of a doctor sitting telling you that this patient comes in on death’s door because of COVID and he starts rambling off a bunch of crazy shit that they read on Facebook. He’s like I can’t do anything about it. I cannot—I’m not going to talk them off of that. They’ve been eating this up for months. So people are dying. Let’s push aside the moral arguments and whether it’s we’re going to be friendlier and warmer to each other without Facebook and Facebook would just dial down that algorithm. People are dying.

PF Because Facebook has put its hands up about being a media conduit, and said, we can’t really control those pieces of it. People are getting bad information and they’re dying. 

RZ That’s right.

PF God, it really has failed really badly. It failed during Trump’s election. It’s really failed during the virus. I think what’s rough then is you login—I haven’t, I don’t log into Facebook, I’m done with it. The big blue one. I barely look at Instagram.

RZ I haven’t been on in a couple of years, actually.

PF I do use WhatsApp for family chat and a few other odds and ends. But WhatsApp is pretty neutral, right? But you know, when you go in, you’re just sort of like, hey, it’s you know, the big update that’s like, Hey, COVID-19, we got you, come over here and look at this and read these resources. Same with Google, you search for something and it’s like, here’s what you need to know. So there’s two things one is, okay, so first of all, look, let me be really clear. This thing is a toxic superfund site. I wrote about that in Businessweek, probably five, six years ago, this is a world catastrophe, they will never clean it up. And it is all of our problem. Okay, so like that is just like what I believe I believed it for a long time. I know people who work there, they’re good people. This is a catastrophe. All of us do things but like, good god. Alright, so there’s that. Second of all, I can’t stop thinking about like Sheryl Sandberg’s fingers just sort of slowly penetrating the table as she claws in anger like this. And Zuckerberg just seems to go surfing. It’s so surreal, watching what they’re doing and then how they’re behaving.

RZ They sat down with their like PR handlers and the surveys and the you know, the sentiment analysis, and they’ve decided that it’s unwinnable, they’re never going to be loved. So they’ve taken a more aggressive posture and a different sort of detached, more of a detached tact, I think.

*PF You want to know, my hypothesis of how we got here? I think it’s really simple. I think it’s like this, because you’ve worked on digital products. You know, I’ve done things in public and worked on digital products. Let’s say 10 people are real fans of your product, how do you interact with them? If they send you an email.

RZ If the users of the products email me?

PF Yeah, they send you an email and the product is launched. What do you do?

RZ Thank you so much. That’s great.

PF Of course you reply. Let’s say one of them has a little critical feedback for you. What do you do? Not mean.

RZ As long as it’s constructive, like we really thank you. Thanks for telling us that. I mean, we really appreciate hearing it.

PF Okay, now that’s 10. Let’s say 100. Now, let’s get to 10,000. What do you do?

RZ It’s getting tricky now. Keyword analysis on emails coming in. [Rich laughs]

PF No, that’s right. Now let’s say it’s 10 million by a lot of the feedback, like a certain portion to 2-3% is really toxic, and people are starting to use your your service for really bad purposes. How do you start to see—because here’s—humans can only handle a certain number of relationships internally. Like you can’t have a relationship with 10 million people. But they are humans, so you start to kind of bucket them. And I’ve had this experience as I’ve worked on things that have 10,000, 100,000, a million users, yeah, you start to bucket them and you start to go like, oh, well, let’s help that person out. That person really does need special attention. But the vast majority, you can never even know their names. You know what I start to think of those people as is, and this is something I fight when I’m doing product work. Kind of a horde of zombies, right? Like they just kind of want your thing and they don’t listen, they won’t read the documents. They don’t believe a word you say. And they just kind of keep hitting the button. It can really get them in. Now get it to 4 billion. What does humanity look like to you?

RZ I gotta tell you, there’s some very, very, very, very smart people at Facebook. They know which algorithm tamps down the device of stuff, the incendiary stuff. They know how to do it. They’ve decided not to do it. 

PF They don’t care because it’s a bunch of annoying zombies anyway, just take their money and go. I think they’re done with humanity.

RZ Does the editor in chief of Globe and Mail have trouble sleeping at night?

PF I mean, ideally, yes. 

RZ Yeah. But he probably does. He’s like, you know what, I gotta sell papers. So the headline, the Megan Markel headline where they found her like, you know, drunk and eating like four packs of Rolos, I’m going to publish that.

PF Just to be clear to our audience. There’s never been any evidence that Megan Markel ever got drunk and ate four packs of Rolos.

RZ I don’t think that’s that severe of an accusation to begin with, but okay. [Paul laughs] It would be nice to eat some rolos after a few drinks to be perfectly frank.

PF It would be nice to eat some Rolos. When’s the last time you had Rolos?

RZ I have not had Rolos in a really long time. 

PF Anyway, Facebook’s enabling genocide.

RZ They can turn the knobs!

PF They’re like why bother with the zombie hordes, let them just keep pouring their money into our pockets and if they can go die. I’m gonna go have a drink with my friends and go hike in the mountains.

RZ Okay, so now we’ve stated the case here. Now let’s solve the problem. 

PF But well also hold on—this is what’s tricky, right? Because we’re saying this and like when Facebook defends itself, it’s worse. Like, every time they go and they tell they’re like, and it’s the same damn narrative and it’s just like, this is harm. You’ve done harm. Can you please acknowledge any part of the harm? And they’re like, “No, not really.” Okay, you’re gonna solve it. Okay. Solve it for me, Richard.

RZ Well, I’m not gonna solve it. I want to take you on a journey, Paul. Ready? 

PF I’m ready. 

RZ Do you know what happened in 1908? The Mark Marlboro was registered in the United States.

PF Mmm, cigarettes. Marlboro Man. 

RZ Marlboro Man came later, but Marlboro, we’re pre World War One. In 1923, it started to get marketed.

PF Everybody smoked.

RZ Everybody smoked. It was refreshing and delicious. 1923 they hit the market in the US. The first warning label showed up in 1966.

PF That’s 40 years.

RZ 40 years. And then in 1970, the cigarette labeling and advertising act of 1965 kicks in and then for over they gave him some a few years to get their act together and put the labels on. Look, I don’t know the history of how you get from 1928 to 1960, 1970. All right, that’s 50 years.

PF It’s actually incremental. And then there are a lot of think tanks and doctors who are funded who are like, no, no, no, it’s good for your lungs,

RZ They probably knew in the 30s 40s 50s that we were killing millions of people. And you probably had a wickedly powerful lobbying effort.

PF There wasn’t that good an understanding of cancer either, right? 

RZ I could do the same exercise with seatbelts. Like a lot of people have to fly through the windshields, Paul, for seatbelts have become mandatory in automobiles. Before that, you had to wear them, you have to put them in, there was a day when there was nothing to strap yourself down with. There were no seatbelts, then they showed up. And then they were optional. And then they were required by law. And that took many years. Facebook is what? 20 years old now. 30 years old? 25 years old?

PF No, no. More like 15. 

RZ Humans move quite slowly, man, especially regulation.

PF Especially with lots of humans.

RZ I need to see more people die before I make you put a warning sticker on that pack of cigarettes. It’s just how it works. And it’s because there are obviously conflicting interests. You’ve got a massive tobacco lobby that existed for many, many years. That held kept it at bay. I’m sure there was probably, it was gradual, you can’t be misleading in the ads, right? Stop telling people it’s good for you in the morning. So that had to go away. And then eventually it’s like, alright, we got to put a sticker on these things. When you’re putting a warning label on something, it’s pretty much come to a head, it’s probably had come to a head for many years already. Millions of people died. What this illustrates is that government’s ability to mobilize—again, and you know, we’re about to see this with climate change is notoriously slow, because conflicting interests tend to bring drag on the right thing.

PF Well, I think also everybody wants to get out, right? Like they see it coming. So at first, they’re like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. And then they’re like, okay, but you gotta give me a minute. Yeah, because this, you can’t do too quickly. And then they literally just extract—like Russians after the fall of the Soviet Union, like you got to just give me like, one more year to figure this out. And then eventually, the policy shows up.

RZ That’s right. And you know, what you actually have happening, and then this actually occurred is that they shifted sales to other countries, Central America, South America, a lot of marketing of cigarettes marketing of—as the health craze took off here.

PF It was really in the 40s. And it was in the late 40s and early 50s, that they started to truly establish the link scientifically. And then as pressure kept growing, you’re right, they kept going like, well, we’re not going to be able to sell as many cigarettes in the US. So I mean, China became an enormous consumer of cigarettes. 

RZ Now we can ask the question of whether the cigarette leadership, the owners of these businesses, their publicly traded, the executives that run these companies, are they evil? Are we asking the same question: is Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg evil? Are they evil?

PF Before you answer that, let me do a thing, which I think and I think this is a critical part, you got 4 or 5 billion people. Let’s say it’s 2 billion. Doesn’t matter how many billions, it’s billions. And you say, well, I mean, look at what you’re doing, look at the damage you’re doing. You’re really hurting segments of society. Don’t I have an argument to come back to you and say, okay, yes, 99% of the people who use our platform, use it to say hi to their cousin.

PF That’s your counter argument.

PF My counter argument is like, remember when Mike’s mom got sick, and everybody rallied behind her. Remember when Sally went for the fun run, and we all we all chipped in and raised $100,000? Like, I mean, what about that? 

RZ 2 to 3%? Well, even less. 0.2-0.5% of people who drive over 80 miles an hour die on the road. Most don’t. But guess what? Speed limits were put in place because you had to collectively protect people from self harm, a lot of harm. Right? And so, you know, this is the classic argument is, and Facebook has embraced this, which is people have the right to connect with one another, to be kind to one another, to bring joy to one another. Yes, they do. They also have the right to drive a car. But guess what? You infringe on liberties, to actually expand liberty. Let me explain this.

PF Yeah, I don’t understand.

RZ If there is no speed limit on I-95. And it is a Mad Max hellscape. Do you know what you will do? You will not go on that road. It actually limits freedom, in many ways, right? I’m going to share something slightly controversial, maybe not. I lived in New York City in the late 70s, early 80s. You couldn’t get on the train after 8pm.

PF Oh, it was a scary time in the city. Yeah, yeah.

RZ It’s a scary time in the city. And so what I found was, you’d make plans, essentially my liberties, my freedoms were actually infringed upon. I couldn’t do a lot of things. I couldn’t go to the city with my friends. We’d all chip in once in a while, or once we got old enough, and somebody could borrow their dad’s car, we would go into the city. But we had way more limitation as to what we could do. Much less freedom. So what happened, the city really attacked crime in a pretty aggressive way, in what many would view as an infringement on freedoms and liberties and whatnot. But what happened was, the net result was actually far more freedom. I’m getting on the train at 10:30 at night without flinching, it became a safer city. And when it became a safer city, everyone’s collective freedom actually went up.

PF I mean, 10 sociologists has burst into flames, as you said that but it is complicated. 

RZ I mean, there’s an old—I’m gonna sound really hoity toity for a second here. Without laws—laws are infringement on freedoms, right? Hmm. Thomas Hobbes said life of man would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. 

PF It’s a famous quote, right, right. 

RZ It’s a famous quote, what he’s saying there is, look, this is during the Renaissance thinking and Thomas Paine, and all this rubber, you know, like, freedom of individuals emanates from the individual, and you should be able to do whatever he wants, it’s like, look, if you do that, you’re gonna have to leave your house. Because it’s a jungle out there. So you need laws to actually expand freedom. I mean, it sounds counterintuitive. But without those ground rules, I wouldn’t take my kid on the street. If there’s no streetlights and people just racing across crosswalks.

PF You couldn’t, you would die. I mean, look, I like living in a civil society sort of way. I’m a huge fan, I take the bus.

RZ Exactly, even and you can take this up to transactions and trusting banks and all of it, right? We regulate banks, we peer into banks today.

PF You know, I can tie together these strands, right? Because I’m sitting here saying, like, look, from a user perspective, Facebook’s building this product in this platform, and they just look out and they’re like, I am tired of humanity. Like they are just like, like, sort of exhausted gods. They’re just like, eh boy, there they are again. And sort of what you’re saying, right is like, by allowing that, by kind of indulging their worst mean, from my point of view, what they’ve done is they’ve indulged their worst opinion of humanity. And what’s fascinating to me is like, government in general, right? Even when into bleak, tends to have a pretty optimistic point of view about humanity’s ability to improve itself, especially in like, the United States as a democratic government is like, okay, I know, that was bad. McCarthy was bad, other things are bad, we have done really bad stuff. And depending on the administration in charge, we’re like, maybe we’ll put up a museum to commemorate the bad stuff. Or maybe we’ll pretend it didn’t happen at all, we’re always oscillating between those things, right? But in general, the take is, you know what, we’re gonna build a museum, we’re gonna do a thing, we’re gonna acknowledge what happened, and we’re gonna figure it out, and it’s gonna take a while, but we’re gonna move on, because we really, really we believe in the people, we like the people. Facebook does not believe in the people. I don’t think it does. Like I just don’t get that.

RZ I think you’re right. You know, there’s sort of this hyper intellectualism that can rationalize just about anything.

PF It’s metrics driven, right? Because there isn’t that idea of like, the individual vote matters, right? Like, you know, they always talk about themselves as a kind of pseudo government, and then like their governance structures and so on, and they’ve got their advisory boards on but ultimately, in a democracy, right? The vote matters. You have to actually think about what does the individual want? Not what I think they should need, or what I think they want, but what they actually want. But instead, I think we’re in this cycle where they think that people are voting by reading things that make them enraged. They think that metrics are a kind of democracy. And I think that that is madness.

RZ You think that’s how they’re rationalizing it?

PF I think it’s just big dashboards on the wall. They’re like, well, fuck man, everybody wants to look—people really care about, I don’t know, the Yankees.

RZ Yeah. How do you fix it, Paul? I mean, Facebook’s not going to be deleted. Well, who knows? It’s still down as of this podcast. [Paul laughs] Maybe somebody just hit Delete? I don’t know for sure.

PF You can do that. You can just get rid of the code repository. Okay. So I mean, let’s just look at the past really quickly. I think the way that they understand their users is broken. I think it’s a global platform, which makes this really, really complicated. And it’s totally you can, you can’t call the UN to negotiate. I think, strong regulatory effort by coordinated Western democracies to start.

RZ Regulate Facebook.

PF I got nothing else at this point, because it’s not going to do it itself. I got nothing else. I don’t I’m not a big fan of this. I think the government is slow. I think it’s kind of like, when the government gets involved with tech, it’s been pretty brutal. That said, the people who are in there now in a regulatory capacity are people who understand the internet and how this works. They’re as smart as on the other side is the people in Facebook, they’re just started as many of them. And so like, I trust that. I would trust that more than I trust to Facebook to try to, quote “solve this problem” anymore. 

RZ Well, I mean, I think what’s been revealed is that they’re aware there’s a problem. And they’ve decided that their priorities are around money, and making money. I mean, that’s that’s essentially what has been revealed. So how do you force that hand? I think that’s right. I think you’re right, I think it is regulation. But let me just say something to, you know, the millions of listeners of this podcast, Paul. That’s top down, that’s government finally imposing itself and making sure everyone wear seatbelts, and forcing the car manufacturers to install seatbelts and install airbags, right. But as parents, I just want to talk just for a moment that as a parent, myself, and you’re a parent as well.

PF Yeah, I don’t want my kids on that platform at all.

RZ I just don’t want them on the platform. There are other platforms, Twitter, everyone lectures you and yells at you. But it’s still a little less divisive.

PF Twitter is an absolute trash fire. But it seems to just at some level, everyone’s like, yeah, this is bad. 

RZ It’s also a fraction of the reach. I mean, let’s just say that out.

PF It’s a baby compared, but Twitter just kind of—there’s a self awareness to Twitter. And we know a lot of people who work at Twitter. There is a kind of like, yeah, okay, well, we are that. Absolutely. And there’s just an honesty to it. The one that’s tricky in all this and you know, they’re just over there with their head down, hoping nobody brings them up, is YouTube. Because it is like a parallel internet. Everybody uses it, it’s kind of social. And it also just keeps recommending, you know—

RZ Let me put my lawyer hat on for a second here, and I’m definitely out of my league, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s gonna be very, you can’t write a law for Facebook. That’s the challenge here. 

PF That’s what everybody wants, everybody wants to like Mark Zuckerberg can’t surf anymore act. [Rich laughs] 

RZ You have to pass a law that gets applied uniformly, and antitrust is not going to cut it. So whatever it is, it’s gonna impact YouTube, it’s gonna impact everybody. And I think that’s what’s needed here. I mean, that is just where we are.

PF It’s so tricky, because so much of the content is sliding people towards a particular political ideology that’s pretty far right, that makes people really anxious and upset, which of course, if you start to go down that path, our far right wing of government will lose its mind. So these are really hard, but we’re in an era of just unbelievably hard problems, and it sucks but we got to grind it out. And this is some garbage. This is terrible. We’ve been saying it.

RZ We’ve had like three podcasts on this topic.

PF I’m gonna give us some credit, man, we did a podcast like right when Trump was elected, saying he needed to get off Twitter, like they needed to pull him. And they did eventually right now, if they had at the time that we sat, I’m sure it would have been 50 lawsuits.

RZ Yeah, yeah. Well, also they did under the cover of the Capitol getting attacked. Like they did it after that, right? Like finally you had a justifiable situation. 

PF But they could have done a lot less harm they’ve done four or five years ago. I mean, you gotta acknowledge that harm.

RZ Yeah, that’s right. If you’re on Facebook, and you’re listening to this, look on the bright side here, like you’re gonna have other people get real happy if you shift things around. It’ll be like, “Margaret, I got 71 thumbs after I put a picture of my bundt cake!”

PF Yeah, no, exactly. I mean, also remember when everybody just hated Uber? All they did was hate Uber all day long? And then they got that new guy, and now everybody’s like, yeah, it’s okay. 

RZ I gotta get home. [Rich laughs]

PF Yeah. Although, as far as I can tell, like its overall relationship to the gig economy hasn’t changed. It is time for new leadership. I think that’s the other thing too, like if Facebook really wants to go away, what I would do is take my 100 billion dollars—

RZ Nah dude. There will be no new leadership. Dude, he’s a little man, he’s got like a booster seat for Congress. [Paul laughs] It’s a bad scene. He’s never giving that thing up. He’s got plastic swords all over his house.

PF That could make it go away. They would say at that point like, okay, well we got to give the new guy six months.

RZ You know what will make him go away? If they make him testify in front of Congress without the booster seat, I think he’ll say I’m resigning from Facebook. [Paul laughs] ‘Cause you can’t have only his chin over the table. Not gonna work. Look, I think this is an important topic. We actually rushed to record this podcast. As of this moment, throughout the recording of this podcast, Facebook continues to be down.

PF This is fascinating.

RZ The timing is so bizarre right? 

PF And it’s down, down. Like no 404, no 503 nginx guru meditation gateway. No CloudFlare, just nothing.

RZ Yeah, exactly. You know, I wish the DNS providers would just for the day while it’s down just reroute everyone to like the San Diego Zoo and like World Wildlife Foundation. [Rich laughs]

PF But also you might as well just drop a small like Tactical Nuke on the servers of those of those organizations.

RZ Yeah, exactly. 

PF What a relief, though. What a moment of freedom. Let me close it out with this. The other day, I’ve been riding my bike to and fro the office, which has been great. It’s about nine miles each way. And the other day I left my phone at the office. And my wife got really upset. She got in touch with you because she’s like, where’s Paul? What the hell’s happening? I’m offline for one hour and then of course that night I didn’t have my phone. I tell you, it was the greatest day. It was so wonderful. But the thing is is like when you are middle aged like I am, your entire life, you don’t get to really do anything cool. Your entire life is just people kind of need something from you. A lot of meetings where we just kind of—I think one of the reasons why you and I get along so well is like we don’t really need anything out of each other, we just kind of like to help each other along. I came in the next morning and I picked up that phone and it was with a moment of profound regret. And then of course you know then 10 minutes later I’m on Twitter just slam jammin’ my tweets in the bucket. [Rich laughs] All I’m saying is I really—we need a little freedom from all this. It’s been a long haul. 

RZ It’s the longest haul. There is no end of the long haul. This is it.

PF And there’s this real holiday mood when Facebook is down. It’s a holiday mood when slack is down and like we should be looking at that. We really should. It’s time to kind of think it all through.

RZ While Facebook is down, you know what’s up though, Paul? Postlight.com.

PF Oh my god, is it.

RZ It’s running? 

PF Wow, looks at that.

RZ The whole Internet’s feeling a little faster today. [Rich laughs]

PF You know what you get when you go to Postlight.com, Rich, there is a button on the top right and you know what it says?

RZ Get in touch.

PF Get in touch. It’s in bright red, you can’t miss it. And you can do that, and go to a website and click that button or you can say hello@postlight.com. And if you do that, who gets those emails? You and me and the whole strat team.

RZ A lot of really cool people will get those emails. We love to talk. 

[music fades in]

PF What I do love though, every now and then a middle school student will send us something offensive. 

RZ Yeah, it’s pretty funny.

PF It’s pretty good and once I did look up the middle school—and because they sent it from their middle school address and I looked up the vice principal of that school and just wrote back. I was like, you know, “Hey there. I don’t think vice principal Adams would be really impressed with your email.” [Rich laughs] Alright well look, we solved it. You know, we were right about Twitter five years before and we’re right about Facebook now. It’s time for the government to step in. 

RZ I think last time we talked Facebook on the podcast, we said regulate. We had Jason Goldman on.

PF We’ve said it non stop. You know, I guess the next one we should actually define the regulation. Which again, Mark Zuckerberg is not allowed to serve is the entirety of the act.

RZ Talk to your neighbor. Look into each other’s eyes.

PF Enjoy it, you’re free. By the time you hear this though, they’ll turn the new Facebook back on. It’ll turn out this is only a product launch and humanity is basically has lost all freewill by the time this podcast is out. We’ll be fine. Hello@postlight.com.

RZ Have a great week, everyone.

PF Goodbye!

[music ramps up, plays alone, ends]