Why Zuckerberg’s New Immigration Activism Rings Hollow
By David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
It’s not enough for Silicon Valley to be among the most profitable corridors of the new American economy; it also wants to be loved. Social media may have divided us, but Mark Zuckerberg is finding new ways to connect the world. Hate speech may have blossomed on Twitter, but Jack Dorsey is working to find a solution. Automation and artificial intelligence may be displacing jobs, but Bay Area futurists are experimenting with a universal basic income. Even as it has grown into a multi-trillion-dollar industry with a fearsome lobbying wing in Washington, Silicon Valley wants to be remembered for the counterculture that Google engineers long ago priced out of San Francisco.
That legacy of dreamy utopianism continues to inform the tech industry’s self-perception, even as its financial imperatives collide with its politics. On Thursday night, Reuters reported that Facebook and Google were among nearly two dozen companies planning to launch a group to lobby for bipartisan legislation to protect DACA recipients, better known as Dreamers. The group, called the Coalition for the American Dream, will try to enlist other companies in urging Congress to pass legislation codifying the Obama-era program, which Donald Trump has said he will rescind. If he does, nearly 800,000 Dreamers will be at risk of deportation.
Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg, who helped found a pro-immigration reform group in 2013, has been particularly vocal in pushing back against the Trump administration’s more restrictive policies. But Facebook’s idealistic self-perception seems to be at odds with its advertising goals. As Bloomberg reported this week, both Facebook and Google worked diligently to maximize the reach of Islamophobic video ads for an anti-refugee nonprofit called Secure America Now. The nonprofit reportedly spent “millions” in ad dollars to ensure that its videos—including one that portrayed “colorful scenes of Main Street America” along with “black-and-white pictures of Muslims who have carried out attacks in the U.S.,” and another that imagined France and Germany governed by Sharia law—had maximum impact on both platforms. (Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)
As a public company, Facebook has an obligation to maximize its profits for shareholders. That may mean courting the business of anti-immigration groups that want to advertise on its platform. As Trump’s former digital campaign director revealed last week, Facebook was more than happy to work closely with the Trump campaign to optimize the nearly $70 million in ads it had purchased. But those objectives increasingly come into conflict with the progressive face that Zuckerberg has shown the public. As Facebook comes under increased scrutiny from congressional lawmakers as part of their inquiries into Russian election interference, those contradictions become more evident.
Immigration reform is the rare issue that is both good politics and good business for a company like Facebook, where more than 15 percent of employees used a temporary work visa in 2016. As Facebook struggles to reconcile its nominally liberal worldview with its financial reality, Zuckerberg’s vociferous defense of the H-1B visa program and DACA seems to offer one solution to Facebook’s identity crisis. It also highlights how empty that rhetoric risks becoming.
via Vanity Fair http://bit.ly/2xvuIXg
October 20, 2017 at 07:19AM