A magazine in France put Mark Zuckerberg on its cover this month… as Napoleon. It’s not a dig at Zuckerberg’s height (such a dig would be factually incorrect anyhow), but an illustration for a cover article (link in French) that compares Silicon Valley giants to empires in need of dismantling.
Facebook is a “a menace for privacy, thought, and democracy,” declares the subtitle on the spring issue of quarterly journalism review We Demain. The article outlines some strategies of resistance, both individual and political.
Zuckerberg-as-Napoleon is a poignant way to illustrate a broader school of thought, which says that big tech companies have become monopolies and need to be broken up. On Monday, a coalition of progressive, US-based groups launched a petition to the Federal Trade Commission to spin off Facebook-owned Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger into separate companies. During Zuckerberg’s hearing with European lawmakers on Tuesday, several of them raised the idea of chopping up Facebook into smaller parts.
The Napoleon analogy is also just fun. The emperor’s main goal was to expand French rule anywhere and everywhere he could, just as Zuckerberg’s is to get his service in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Napoleon’s eventual decline kicked off in Russia, where many of Facebook’s recent problems have also originated. Also worth remembering: Napoleon had a huge influence on the global stage, but left France barely larger than he found it, and spent his last days exiled on a tropical island.