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Kirkpatrick Critiques Facebook on Keen’s Podcast

Is this man a world-improving innovator or a blithe and cavalier profiteer? Or a little bit of both? Kirkpatrick and Keen explore the problem. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Facebook’s never-ending cycle continues: growth, success, malfeasance, semi-apology, public anger, and attempted remediation, and then more growth. The global social media behemoth is maddeningly challenging, even as its central role in society becomes ever greater, particularly in growing economies outside the developed world. Now acerbic British journalist Andrew Keen, himself author of numerous critical books about the digital society, interviews Techonomy’s editor-in-chief, David Kirkpatrick, for his podcast Keen on Democracy.

Kirkpatrick has been watching and studying the company ever since September 2006, when he met Mark Zuckerberg. It led him to write The Facebook Effect, first published in 2010. The book was a generally enthusiastic account of a company Kirkpatrick expected to have a powerful impact on the world. Keen presses him on why his views changed, in a segment he titles “Why David Kirkpatrick Turned on Facebook.” (Kirkpatrick has been deeply critical of numerous aspects of Facebook’s behavior in the last couple years, though you can decide for yourself if he has “turned” on Facebook.)

Why does this one company so challenge democracy? Who is to blame? How do we divide responsibility between Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, the two titans of global business who run the company? What should regulators do? How can Facebook serve society better? Keen and Kirkpatrick engage in a spirited dialogue about one of the most vexing business issues of our age.

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