It is an unevenly told tale. McNamee wants readers to think of him as a player in the events he describes, but the text regularly has a sense of things viewed from too great a distance. That said, he knows enough about Facebook and its contexts to get to the heart of what its presence in our lives means for the world, and is bracingly blunt about the company’s threat to the basic tenets of democracy, and his own awakening to its dangers. In early passages about the initial occasions when he met Zuckerberg, he writes of a man then aged 22 appearing “consistently mature and responsible”, and “remarkably grown-up for his age”. He goes on: “I liked Zuck. I liked his team. I liked Facebook.” But by the time of the 2016 presidential election, everything had changed. In a memo to Zuckerberg and Sandberg, McNamee was blunt: “I am disappointed. I am embarrassed. I am ashamed.” And he had a keen sense of what had gone wrong, summarised here in the kind of aphoristic phrase for which he clearly has a talent: “Facebook has managed to connect 2.2 billion people and drive them apart at the same time.”
This was bad PR that has led directly to this very readable and hugely damaging book... This is a dangerous book for Facebook because it will be widely read — apart from Jaron Lanier’s work, it is the best anti-Big Tech book I’ve come across. Its real strength is that McNamee knows how these attention- and information-stealing systems work.
McNamee excels at grounding Facebook in the historical context of the technology industry... Shedding fresh light on an already deeply covered story, he describes how Facebook was born when tech start-ups were suddenly no longer limited by processing power, memory and network bandwidth... While Zucked is an excellent account of the story so far, Facebook’s fate is far from sealed. McNamee admits his analysis is still more of an “emerging hypothesis” than a firm conclusion. He ends with recommendations for new regulations and an improved tech industry that seem to be more of a brainstorming session than a clear path ahead.
Along with his venture capital firm, Elevation Partners, the author made a fortune off an early investment in Zuckerberg’s company, a subject about which he is now suitably circumspect, given his belief that Facebook, along with Google and other tech giants, today represents “the greatest threat to the global order in my lifetime.” A self-identified “capitalist,” McNamee currently advocates breaking up Facebook’s data monopoly by force, and heavily regulating its appalling business practices. “Zucked” is thus a candid and highly entertaining explanation of how and why a man who spent decades picking tech winners and cheering his industry on has been carried to the shore of social activism...The most stirring parts of the book are those in which McNamee makes the angry but measured argument that “social media has enabled personal views that had previously been kept in check by social pressure.” ...Zuckerberg et al. probably didn’t set out to transform American neo-Nazism into this generation’s punk rock, but the platforms they created have generated “a feedback loop that reinforces and amplifies ideas with a speed and at a scale that are unprecedented.”