In today’s Outside the Box we resume our eight-part Strategic Investment Conference Speaker Series with my friend Niall Ferguson, senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford and the Center for European Studies at Harvard. Niall has a cautionary tale for us on the topic of social networks.
The problem, in a nutshell:
Facebook certainly made an impact last year, but not quite the impact the young Zuckerberg had in mind in his Harvard dorm. A committed believer in globalisation who tends to wear his liberal politics on his T-shirt sleeve, Zuckerberg is reeling. Not only did the masterminds behind the Brexit and Trump campaigns successfully use Facebook advertising to hone and target their ultimately victorious campaign messages; worse, the Russian government appears to have used Facebook in the same way, seeking to depress voter support for Hillary Clinton. Worse still, neo-Nazis seem to have been using the social network to spread their own distinctive brand of hate.
Niall – ever the history prof – can’t help chiding Mr. Zuckerberg on his choice of majors at Harvard:
Yet the architects of the biggest social networks to have existed should not have been surprised. If he had studied history at Harvard rather than psychology and computer science, Zuckerberg might have foreseen the ways in which Facebook and its ilk would be used and abused.
This post was published at Mauldin Economics on DECEMBER 27, 2017.