Each day, we learn another tiny detail about Russia's influence on the 2016 presidential election. The most recent: that despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's strong initial denial, his company sold targeted advertising services to an obvious proxy for Russian intelligence.
Even in the midst of unprecedented informational chaos, this caught my attention for two reasons. First, Mark is positioning himself to run for President in 2020. Second, I know Mark, and I have a clear position on him.
Mark Zuckerberg is a sociopath.
In 2009, I entered into a settlement agreement with Mark and Facebook, Inc., just before a group of Russian oligarchs and Goldman Sachs infused $200 million into his company. Finally, I could move on; people might believe me when I told them that I had developed The Facebook at Harvard College in late 2003—or so I thought. Mark's lawyers buried the press release at 11:48 P.M. on Friday night, violating our contract from the moment it was signed.
The following year, The Social Network was released nationwide, and Facebook's origin myth was cemented in the minds of everyone from students to bank CEOs. The movie paved the way for Facebook's IPO, which despite a disastrous opening still made Mark a billionaire. Luckily, the world grew more open and connected—sort of.
Reality tends to be more complicated than a tidy screenplay. America today is as close to fascism as it has ever been, and Facebook played a pivotal role in that development. So did Mark.
That is not a coincidence. As early as 2005, I pushed Mark to focus on keeping Facebook free of spam and unwanted content; he ignored the warning and opted for growth at any cost, which remains his only concern. I was furious when he ignored gaping security holes for weeks. Today, these issues remain more urgent than ever.
Markets love growth and are quick to forget, especially when critics are hounded, ignored, and silenced. As one such critic, my legal testimony was redacted and television interviews were canceled last-minute. I was labeled a mentally ill, "jealous," "bitter," "sore loser" with a case of "sour grapes." These barbs missed the point: not just that Mark was wrong to appropriate others' work, but that even given the opportunity to make amends when he had nothing to lose, Mark left me—someone he described as an unusually smart "friend"—for dead. I spent months pondering how my other friends might have handled this scenario. None would have considered profiting without another word.
In retrospect, I was the first casualty of Mark's tendency to abuse the word "friend"—to treat people as though their sole purpose is his advancement. Next, there was the Winklevoss altercation; ultimately, all of his "official" co-founders left. By 2007, Facebook users began to notice a pattern: expansionist power grabs followed by Mark's perfunctory apologies, only to be repeated all over again.
Sociopathic behavior is de rigeur in business; perhaps this is why we let CEOs get away with crimes that would send others to prison. Now, the stakes are higher. Mark is signaling that he wants to run the country, and not just in a supportive role (see "NSA Prism"). He should be disqualified from running for office.
The immediate issue is that Mark surely knew that Facebook had a connection to Russia at some point long before the company's admission. What did he know when? Was he aware of a crime or cover-up? Why has the media been so slow to ask?
One reason is that after thirteen years, there has never been a true mainstream media accounting of Facebook's birth. Had The Social Network been honest, it would have followed a pathological liar lacking remorse and respect for law. After "befriending" me and copying many aspects of my work for profit, Mark searched my Facebook for the Winklevosses, who I didn't know, to see if I had been working with them. He then launched his site, and used the Facebook passwords of the very Crimson reporters heaping praise upon him to break into their Harvard e-mail accounts—a brazen violation of federal law. He actually wrote, "You can be unethical and still be legal that's the way I live my life haha." He called his users "dumb," plus an expletive. He raised millions from investors, but avoided informing me that he'd changed his mind about not wanting to start a company. Now, he doesn't want to run for office—he just wants us all to have "purpose."
If this kind of deception sounds familiar, it's because Mark and Donald Trump have something in common. They have the same condition and apologists with buckets of excuses: "youth," "inexperience," "candor," "genius." Both have manipulated their way out of countless outrageous situations, such as objectifying women, and both have enabled other sociopaths. The Social Network was made possible by author Ben Mezrich, a fake news pioneer who audaciously boasts that truth is whatever he believes it to be.
Sociopaths have always been threats to democracy; that is why the founding fathers were so concerned about checks and balances. Yet it is doubtful that they ever imagined their ingenious protections being trumped by a network of con men, connected only by illness and the internet.
We need to get better at examining candidates for these hallmark traits, and most importantly, at holding leaders accountable. With Mark in charge, we can safely assume that almost everything we know about Facebook is a lie, from its advertising revenue to its account statistics. We can also assume that there will be more lies, more victims, and more sociopaths eager to hop on the bandwagon of Mark's success.
Donald Trump's modus operandi is now familiar to us all. Mark's is really no different. He nearly destroyed my life. Don't let him destroy the country.