Citizen Zuck: The making of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.”
-Pablo Picasso
(Listed on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook profile under “Favorite Quotes”)

There’s a story about Mark Zuckerberg visiting his hometown of Dobbs Ferry, New York: A few years ago, he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, allegedly walked into Yuriy’s Barber Shop, a four-chair parlor with a blue awning over the doorway and a neon “open” sign buzzing in the window. The shop sits in a brick building at the end of Cedar Street, one of the main drags in town.

Zuckerberg, who grew up in the sleepy town about 25 miles north of New York City, was supposedly visiting from California. Yuriy Katayev, who claims to have been his high school barber, says he was excited to see his old regular. The 50-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan tells me he asked Dobbs Ferry’s most famous son about — What else? — Facebook.

“It’s OK. People give me shit over it now,” Katayev says Zuckerberg told him.

“It’s not easy to control now — because it’s too much,” Katayev tells me Zuckerberg said. “It’s too big.”

Great story, but Zuckerberg says it’s not true. Three days after telling Zuckerberg’s representatives that we’d spoken to his barber, Zuckerberg says he doesn’t know Katayev and never visited his barbershop. Katayev, who proudly posed for photos in his shop, swears the visit really happened.

Which shows how much Facebook’s chairman and chief executive gets caught up in his own version of fake news.

And fake news was one of the issues that drew Zuckerberg to Capitol Hill last week, where he was grilled by US lawmakers over how he and the world’s biggest social network have screwed up. Facebook, Zuckerberg now admits, has become a tool for hate groups who use the platform to harass and intimidate, and for state actors like Russia to manipulate opinion through false news with the aim of interfering with elections, including the 2016 US presidential race.

Just in the past month, Facebook has been hammered for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it mishandled users’ data by being, in its own words, “naive” about how others could exploit the personal information Facebook collects on its 2.2 billion users. That info is its main currency. Knowing your age, location, likes, interests and other personal data allows it to target lucrative ads on your news feed. It’s also why Zuckerberg, 33, is now the fifth richest person in the world, with a net worth of about $71 billion.

“We didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm,” Zuckerberg said as he apologized repeatedly during 10 hours of testimony in two hearings before the Senate and House. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

For better or worse, Facebook and Zuckerberg have become the proxy for all of Big Tech. It’s part of the reason lawmakers, already concerned that companies like Facebook, Google and Apple have too much power and influence over our lives and the economy, demanded Zuckerberg testify — as if answering for the entire industry.

Facebook’s mistakes have also raised questions about whether Zuckerberg is a trustworthy custodian of people’s data, and whether he’s the right person to oversee one of the most powerful information platforms on the planet. Forty-three percent of Facebook users say they’re “very concerned” about invasion of privacy, up from 30 percent in 2011, according to a Gallup poll released last week.

Read more at CNet.