Mark Zuckerberg is losing friends in Silicon Valley

Finding some new friends.
Finding some new friends.
Image: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is among the most prominent of Silicon Valley’s billionaires. Now, his peers seems to be turning against him.

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, tech titans like Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook have taken shots at Zuckerberg and his social media empire. The tight-knit tech industry’s willingness to openly criticize Zuckerberg marks a turning point in Silicon Valley culture, according to Leslie Berlin, author of Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age.

“Until very recently, it was taken as a given that tech equaled progress and tech equaled good and tech equaled economic strength,” Berlin told the New York Times. Now, the idea that tech can do no wrong seems to be changing—at least when it comes to Facebook. Here are a few of the voices within the Valley that have spoken out against Zuckerberg, Facebook, and Zuckerberg’s stewardship of Facebook in recent days.

Brian Acton

WhatsApp co-founder Acton, whose company was sold to Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, was an early joiner of the #deletefacebook movement. He posted the hashtag on Twitter on March 20 along with the message, “It’s time.”

Tim Cook

Asked in an interview what he would do if he were in Zuckerberg’s shoes, Cook replied, “I wouldn’t be in this situation.” (For Cook’s sake, he better hope that turns out to be true.) It’s certainly the case that Apple has built a reputation for taking a hard line on privacy, even going toe-to-toe with the FBI in 2016 in order to defend iPhone password protection.

Roger McNamee

McNamee, an early investor in Facebook who acted as a mentor to Zuckerberg, has emerged as an outspoken critic of the company as well as Zuckerberg’s leadership. “Seven years earlier, he was more curious, he was more open, he was more willing to take pushback,” McNamee told Quartz of his disappointment in Zuckerberg’s evolution.

McNamee was equally open about his frustration with Facebook’s reluctance to do more to address user concerns over privacy and security. “This is the most astonishing, disappointing, emotionally draining realization,” McNamee said. “Wow, they’re going to drive this thing into the ground. Do they think their customers are going to put up with this forever?”


Elon Musk

Musk dramatically deleted the Facebook pages of his Tesla and SpaceX companies at the behest of his followers.

Musk, as noted by the New York Times, has previously clashed with Zuckerberg over topics including the future of AI. (Zuckerberg called Musk a “naysayer” for worrying about the potential risks of the technology; Musk fired back that Zuckerberg’s “understanding of the subject is limited.”) Musk later added that his decision to delete Facebook was not meant as a statement—although, of course, it made a statement regardless.


Beyond Silicon Valley

Zuckerberg and Facebook are also taking plenty of flak outside Silicon Valley, as celebrities like Cher and Will Ferrell join the #deletefacebook movement and companies like Germany’s Commerzbank pull their advertising. In another high-profile defection, Playboy announced plans to delete its Facebook pages, which have more than 25 million followers. The move was both a protest of the Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle and a statement about Facebook’s “sexually repressive” policies on nudity, per chief creative officer Cooper Hefner.