I’m neither sorry nor surprised that Facebook — the evil empire I sometimes refer to as Spacenook to avoid attracting its unwelcome attention — took a beating on Wall Street today, with its stock dropping 19% . That’s a well-deserved loss of $119 billion in market capitalization, which is the biggest-ever one-day loss of value for a U.S. public company.
Facebook’s corporate loathesomeness has become increasingly obvious, but we can trace it back to founder Mark Zuckerberg’s pre-Facebook project while he was a student at Harvard. His original site, FaceMash, was a “Hot or Not” appearance-rating site that got him called before Harvard’s administrative board in 2003, “accused of breaching security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy.” Earlier this year, while testifying before Congress, Zuckerberg dismissed FaceMash as a “prank website” created by a teenager — supposedly nothing like Zuckerberg and Facebook now, except that “breaching security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy” sounds very much like Facebook today. Add in Russian political interference and last week’s statement of the company’s tolerance of Holocaust deniers, and FaceMash seems like the less harmful product.
I’ve always thought Zuckerberg was a smart-with-tech guy who had a scalable idea, incredible timing, and a profound lack of good leadership qualities. In fact, I mentioned him in that way in a Washington Post interview I did in 2010. I had been invited to take part in a video series called “On Leadership” because of my jewelry designs inspired by powerful women, and Post fashion writer Holly Thomas asked me, “Your current [jewelry] collection deals with important women leaders from the past, and I am wondering how those leaders have given you a background that puts today’s leaders into context?” I answered:
“There are definitely cautionary tales among the women who inspire me — they inspire the art, and they don’t necessarily inspire you to go down their path. One that comes to mind is Empress Matilda of the 1100s, who was supposed to inherit the throne of England, and her cousin Steven stole it from her, saying primarily that she was a woman and shouldn’t hold the throne, and they fought a civil war that lasted 19 years, and she won at one point she has Steven locked up. She had all the technique to get herself to that point of success and then was not able to come through after you get to that level. And that, oddly, makes me think of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, he’s not really the day to day operations guy, and Facebook has taken huge hits. And I feel as with Empress Matilda, you have to know what you are not good at, and you have to know when to have other people step in or you might lose everything.”
Holly and I also spoke about how fashion is tricky for powerful women today. I’m still happy with my description of Hillary Clinton as someone without a “stylish bone in her body” and how that is totally FINE because she is focused on other things. Things like warning us that Trump was a Russian puppet, to mention a recent example.
You can click here to see my 2010 video interview, or you can read the transcript. By the way, I am still weirdly in awe of the lack of listening comprehension evidenced by a few commenters who took offense at my fact-based assessment of Clinton as both uninterested in fashion AND unfairly criticized for that lack of interest. Maybe it sounded worse after they translated it to Russian!