"We can't do this alone," she said during the visit two weeks ago, Sara Su, one of the company's spokespersons. The social network, he said, needs the collaboration of external organizations to curb the monster. The lack of control over the contents that are disseminated on the platform and the little attention directed to the privacy of the users have led to the technological one to suffer the worst crisis of credibility in its 14 years of history. Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted last March — the massive filtering of personal data from 87 million users to that British company — Mark Zuckerberg has been forced to explain how his creature works, a mastodon with More than 2.2 billion of monthly users.
And in that strategy it fit the plan to spend a day in the Empire of Facebook. In its effort to convey an image of transparency, the company first invited a group of international media journalists to its main headquarters, including the country. That yes, Zuckerberg and his team are on the other side of the highway, in the new facilities released a couple of months ago. The guests didn't have that privilege.
Secrecy around the technology algorithm is extended to its offices; Journalists are continually controlled and the distance of just a few meters with the company's workers, who move fast from one side to the other, is perceived as kilometric. The campus-based environment, with an interior courtyard full of employees from different parts of the world with an average age of about 30 years, clashes with the reality imposed from above: freedom of movement is not an option.
The time chosen to open its doors for a day and to put the spokespersons from different departments to answer the questions of journalists coming from countries such as Japan, Poland, France or Argentina-87% of the users of the platform are from outside the United States and Canada-it's no coincidence. A week later, Facebook recorded a collapse of close to 25% in its stock market valuation, just after presenting a worse than expected economic performance and anticipating that its growth slows. Never before has a company fallen so much in a day on Wall Street: From a stock market capitalization close to 620 billion dollars (about 531 billion euros) before the results were published, it went to 470,000 (about 402,000 in euros).
Although its 2.2 billion of users generated a turnover of 13.23 billion in the second quarter of 2018, which represents an improvement of 42% compared to the same period of the previous year, they could more doubts about the new policies of the company and the Possible effects on their profitability. During the last few months, Zuckerberg has been subject to the scrutiny of legislators in the United States and the European Union and is being examined if he violated the rules that protect users ' privacy. New security investments could affect your profit margin. This crisis adds reputational: Under the name #DeleteFacebook, a new social movement has called on users to leave Facebook.
Taking the pulse of the possible uneasiness or uncertainty of the company's employees is not easy. From the moment that the journalists access to the enclosure, erected next to a highway of the Bay of San Francisco to about 47 kilometers of the city, those responsible for the event accompany them at all times, even to go out to smoke a cigar abroad. The control of each one of the movements of the journalists is excessive; During mealtimes they must stay in a restricted area and controlled by security personnel. In the two complexes that form the headquarters of Facebook there is a total of 14,000 employees. Around the world add up to 30,000.
During the guided tour of the facilities, one of the employees explains some of the anecdotes related to the architecture of the place. It is a series of ships joined by a large inner courtyard with garden areas, restaurants and free gyms for the staff and shops for sale of bikes or hairdresser, of payment. Some of the buildings are connected by red bridges reminiscent of the Golden Gate, the iconic San Francisco bridge. "They spend many hours here and we want them to feel at home," she says. "There is a community of foxes that usually come out when the sun sets," he continues. Some posters advise you not to approach them or feed them. The tour stops at the poster workshop, free for the employees, or the ice cream parlor. What is the majority profile of the workers? The Middle Ages? The average salary? "Facebook does not offer that kind of information," replies the employee.
Secrecy and the so-called Control Freak (in Spanish, obsession to control) are the insignia of technology companies in Silicon Valley. "In the technological world the most valuable thing is what you have invented. The founders believe that if someone discovers the way they believe, they will lose their competitive advantage, "says a former employee of the sector who lives in San Francisco and prefers not to say her name. "They are concerned that some of the employees will disclose a detail or count too much. Facebook is very paranoid right now. It is true that many of the employees are disgusted with the company's policies, interference in the elections in 2016 does not agree on how Zuckerberg is managing the company, "he adds.
On this occasion, the secret of the Facebook algorithm was safe. The technical part of the company, the computer development teams, are in the new building, out of reach of the invited informants.
In an article published in the Columbia Journalism Review, James Ball, British journalist and author of the book Post-Truth: How Bullshit conwanted the World ("The truth: How Nonsense Conquered the world") alert of the need for a new Model of technological journalism. Ball denounces the permissiveness of the journalists and the fanphenomenon, in which the informants are the most enthusiastic of the new technological products and, sometimes, the less critical ones. "The founders of the companies control the access of the media to a point that companies from another sector would find unusual. Even office visits-considered a privilege-require confidentiality agreements by journalists, "explains Ball.
"There are a number of reasons why secrecy has become an essential part of the Silicon Valley culture, and not just the need to protect its intellectual property from competitors. It is about the atmosphere surrounding the technology-specialized press, which is what makes it possible. Thanks to complacent media and even fans, technology can easily control their narratives and turn off criticism or veto journalists, "says Ball.
Sandy Parakilas, director of operations at the Facebook Privacy department between 2011 and 2012, is now one of his detractors. Despite being a critic of the model, it ensures that the company prioritizes the economic growth and allocates very few resources to the protection of the users, his opinion on the secrecy and the control on the media is not negative. He believes that behavior is logical, that journalists can be critical and that the fear of being vetoed is meaningless.
This is not the perception of the informants while eating a roll of vegetables in the so-called Zen Garden of Facebook, a space on a wooden platform, with gardens and ample individual armchairs that the employees can use as a place of work. "If you criticize them openly, they do not invite you again," says one of the journalists based in San Francisco.