SEVERE WX : Dense Fog Advisory View Alerts

Mark Zuckerberg's growing up moment

The offices of the old Facebook were sprinkled with signs that read, "Move fast and break things." That was long befo...

Posted: Apr 10, 2018 10:30 AM
Updated: Apr 10, 2018 10:30 AM

The offices of the old Facebook were sprinkled with signs that read, "Move fast and break things." That was long before the spread of fake news on the platform, before revelations that Russians manipulated it to sow discord in America, before evidence that it may have contributed to genocide in Myanmar, and before a data scandal that left users wondering if they could trust the platform.

The signs are long gone. They're reminiscent of a tech era now behind us.

I could feel the shift during my last visit to Facebook. I've been inside Facebook's offices many times, but going there to interview CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the immediate wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, with the company in crisis, felt different. The campus, in Menlo Park, has doubled in size since my visits years ago. It's still decorated with bright graffiti and signage, but the feel of the place was somber. There's a lot of work to do.

It's a feeling pervasive in tech right now: An era of innovation at a turning point, with the innovators facing the implications of what they created.

As he prepares to testify before Congress, Zuckerberg has to deal with that new reality. He's not just a tech CEO, but a world leader, overseeing a nation of two billion people that he created. He has to reckon with the serious impact the company has on democracy and the manipulation of user data and trust for political purposes, not to mention a business model under fire.

Related: Was your Facebook data shared with Cambridge Analytica? You can now find out

And until now, Zuckerberg has been protected by his own filter bubble of sorts. He's a staple behind the scenes at Facebook and a respected leader in closed door meetings there, but his public appearances are rare, often done in a studio set up inside Facebook where he can address his users in a comfortable environment and with help from a script. He may be 33, a billionaire many times over and unquantifiably powerful, but he is still relatively young and cloistered -- he has, after all, only ever had one job, and he started in it when he was 19.

Zuckerberg doesn't like doing TV interviews. He told me that weeks ago as we sat down in the ice-cold conference room code named "the Aquarium" where he holds meetings. Known for sweating at inopportune times, he wanted to talk in a place where he was comfortable.

"There's an element of accountability where I should be out there doing more interviews as uncomfortable as it is for me to do a TV interview," he admitted to me. "For what we're doing I should be out there and being asked hard questions by journalists," he said, acknowledging that his leadership must extend behind the closed doors of Facebook's Menlo Park campus.

Now he'll have another chance to be asked hard questions -- not by journalists, but by lawmakers who will likely challenge the company's underlying business model, its inability to protect user data, and the weaponization of the platform for political gain. Like the CEOs of banks, automakers and tobacco companies before him -- as the CEO of a major, world-changing company -- Zuckerberg will answer to Congress. And temperature control will be out of his hands.

This is his moment, one that could have a significant impact on him and his company, and it will not come easily to him.

A source inside Facebook says Zuckerberg's game plan is to convince lawmakers that the company is taking data privacy issues seriously and that it will be more transparent from now on. That game plan is partly why the company has in the last few weeks released an onslaught of updates regarding third party access to the platform, transparency around user data, and changes to make political advertising on Facebook more transparent.

When pressed on how the CEO, who despite growing one of the world's most influential company hasn't been outwards facing, will deal with the public format, the source said: "There's a certain degree of theater, but I think we're really focused on substance," adding "this is a leadership moment."

But as Zuckerberg steps outside his comfort zone, at least some of the focus will be on the style with which he talks about that substance.

Related: What Mark Zuckerberg will tell Congress

I remember the last time I saw Zuckerberg in public at a similarly defining moment. It was 2012, just after Facebook's IPO had made him the CEO of a public company, and he was about to take the stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

Some people forget now that when Facebook first went public, the stock plummeted. Investors were angry, and there was real skepticism about the company and its value. Sitting in the front row, I caught a glimpse of Zuckerberg moments before he stepped on stage. He was breathing deeply, lifting his shoulders like he was pumping himself up for a ball game. In that moment, he wasn't Mark Zuckerberg, 28-year old billionaire of the hottest social network out there and subject of a major Hollywood movie. He seemed, instead, like a nervous guy trying to will himself into this new role.

"I started this when I was so young and inexperienced," Zuckerberg told me during our interview. "I made technical errors and business errors. I hired the wrong people. I trusted the wrong people. I've probably launched more products that have failed than most people will in their lifetime."

Zuckerberg told me he was optimistic. He'll tell Congress the company was too idealistic. Idealism and optimism are good ingredients for a pitch deck, but when your platform has power to shape the world, they are not enough.

As users question whether Facebook will protect democracy, or harm it, whether it will connect the world, or drive us further apart, they'll be looking at the CEO. He has long been standing in the shadows behind the algorithms, but they'll be watching to see whether he will grow into his current, more public role, whether he demonstrates that he really understands the gravity of the consequences his platform has had. And they'll be looking to see whether he'll accept the fact that he is now a world leader who, to best rule the domain he created, must display a better understanding of humanity -- an ingredient too often lost behind the walls in Silicon Valley and on the engineers coding our future.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 43742

Reported Deaths: 1558
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin13948793
Ramsey5397238
Dakota285297
Stearns257519
Anoka2510115
Nobles16986
Washington134441
Olmsted133620
Mower9942
Scott9534
Rice8988
Clay63238
Blue Earth6292
Kandiyohi6001
Wright5645
Carver5182
Todd4052
Sherburne3755
Lyon3642
Freeborn3160
Watonwan2730
Steele2661
Benton2503
St. Louis24916
Nicollet21513
Martin1805
Winona15615
Goodhue1468
Cottonwood1440
Le Sueur1421
Otter Tail1231
Crow Wing11912
Pine1150
Chisago1131
Dodge1050
McLeod1020
Pipestone975
Carlton960
Unassigned9440
Polk903
Isanti860
Murray860
Chippewa841
Douglas830
Waseca820
Itasca7912
Morrison701
Becker690
Meeker671
Faribault640
Beltrami620
Jackson590
Sibley592
Pennington550
Brown532
Wabasha460
Mille Lacs412
Swift391
Fillmore380
Renville373
Rock350
Yellow Medicine340
Lincoln330
Houston320
Grant311
Roseau290
Koochiching261
Redwood250
Wilkin233
Cass222
Norman210
Pope190
Big Stone180
Kanabec181
Wadena180
Aitkin170
Marshall170
Clearwater140
Mahnomen131
Hubbard120
Stevens110
Lake100
Traverse80
Lac qui Parle60
Red Lake50
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36437

Reported Deaths: 776
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk7803188
Woodbury338645
Black Hawk257660
Buena Vista174112
Johnson15438
Linn145684
Dallas145133
Scott117410
Marshall112519
Dubuque105423
Story8978
Pottawattamie85913
Wapello71731
Muscatine70945
Crawford6823
Sioux5190
Tama49329
Webster4485
Wright4081
Jasper37517
Louisa36813
Plymouth3645
Cerro Gordo3569
Warren3481
Dickinson3123
Washington2559
Hamilton2071
Boone1741
Clay1521
Clinton1471
Clarke1463
Allamakee1384
Mahaska12417
Shelby1240
Bremer1227
Carroll1211
Franklin1170
Poweshiek1148
Pocahontas1091
Des Moines1052
Emmet990
Cedar971
Hardin950
Henry943
Cherokee871
Marion870
Guthrie844
Floyd832
Benton811
Taylor810
Jones801
Monona780
Butler742
Jackson740
Osceola700
Sac690
Hancock672
Buchanan661
Calhoun662
Lyon650
Harrison640
Jefferson640
Iowa631
Fayette620
Humboldt621
Madison612
Kossuth580
Delaware571
Palo Alto550
Lee542
Mills540
Monroe547
Winneshiek532
Clayton513
Mitchell510
Grundy500
Union501
Winnebago490
Davis431
Unassigned390
Howard370
Lucas354
Chickasaw340
Greene310
Appanoose303
Worth300
Cass290
Ida240
Keokuk231
Page220
Van Buren211
Adair170
Audubon171
Montgomery172
Ringgold161
Decatur140
Fremont110
Wayne111
Adams80
Rochester
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 60°
Mason City
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 59°
Albert Lea
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 63°
Austin
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 63°
Charles City
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 59°
Clouds continue to clear as a warming trend heads our way
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events