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MOMENT OF TRUTH

TED offers Mark Zuckerberg a stage to explain himself once and for all

By Anne Quito in Vancouver

“The technology you have created is amazing, but now it’s a crime scene. And you have the evidence.”

British journalist Carole Cadwalladr kicked off the first day of the TED 2019 conference with a truth bomb. Addressing the audience of 1,800 gathered in Vancouver, Canada, she appealed to the “gods of Silicon Valley” to own up to the consequences their inventions.”You set out to connect people and you are refusing to acknowledge that the same technology is driving us apart,” she said.

“That is why I’m here—to address you directly, the gods of Silicon Valley: Mark Zuckerberg and Sherry Sandberg and Larry Page and Sergei Brin and Jack Dorsey. And your employees and your investors, too,” she said. “My question to you: Is this what you want? Is this how you want history to remember you? As the handmaidens to authoritarianism that is on the rise all over the world?”

Cadwalladr, who is a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for breaking the story about Cambridge Analytica’s election tampering, argued that propaganda in the form of Facebook ads tipped the Brexit vote and threatens democracy around the world.  She also noted that Zuckerberg ignored the summons of nine countries—the UK, Canada, Ireland, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore, Belgium, France, and Latvia—to appear in person and explain to an international committee of lawmakers how his company handles personal data.

TED curator Chris Anderson suggested that his conference might offer a more neutral stage for Facebook, which also happens to have been a major TED partner in years past. “I’ll say this to Zuck and Sheryl…There’s been an open invitation for you to come to TED, come here and talk to us and explain how you see the way forward. We hope you see a way forward,” Anderson said in Vancouver. “We will make time for you later this week if you want to come. There isn’t a more important conversation than the issues that Carole has raised.”

So far, Zuckerberg hasn’t responded to Anderson’s invitation but Twitter CEO Dorsey is scheduled to speak at TED today.