Skip to content

Zuckerberg: King Of The Metaverse Review – It Will Make You Even More Terrified Of The Internet

Google’s unofficial company motto, at least until it was restructured into Alphabet Inc in 2015, was “Don’t be evil”. That is not a normal thing to have to say. It should have been a warning to us all that big tech’s default position might, in fact … be evil?

Facebook’s was the slightly less worrisome: “Move fast and break things.” Slightly less worrisome, at least, until seven or eight years ago when Trump took to the platform for campaigning purposes and it became clear that one of the things Facebook might break was democracy. People had been warning that the social media behemoth might wield too much power since at least 2011, when it became central to the Arab spring uprising. More alarm bells sounded when the company expanded into Myanmar without, seemingly, taking advice from experts or activists as to what such an advent might do to a country with no free press or independent institutions. The Rohingya massacre was felt by many to have been fuelled by Facebook’s lack of due diligence beforehand, and its laissez-faire attitude to the hate speech that proliferated later.

But, y’know – what ya gonna do? That is the question, and its merely rhetorical nature is underscored at every turn by the two-hour documentary Zuckerberg: King of the Metaverse. Mark Zuckerberg, of course, is the inventor (in his Harvard dorm in 2004 at the age of 20) of Facebook, the social media platform that now connects 49% of the global population, and he is its CEO. Or perhaps, as one of the many contributors to the film puts it, “its dictator”. He is personally worth about $100bn – probably the greatest self-made fortune in history.

Zuckerberg: King of the Metaverse is a history of the company that does well in sidestepping the temptation simply to boggle at the scale of the enterprise, the rapidity with which it grew and the money involved, as so many shows on the subject do. Instead, it invites erstwhile colleagues and critics (there seems to be no overlap and I would love to see the investment portfolios of the former) to chart the rise and sort-of-fall of the tentacular monster with so many in its grip. They explain its business model and the unseen power of the algorithms behind it (and by extension, if you think about it – though I suggest you don’t for too long – every other famous website upon which we depend for our social lives and consumer goods).

Interspersing all of this is footage from the congressional hearings of 2018, when Zuckerberg finally agreed – under threat of subpoena – to be questioned by the US Senate about his creation’s deployment of personal data. This came in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that involved the harvesting of 87 million people’s information, later enabling the targeting of potential voters with an unprecedented degree of precision.

The hearings left critics shaking their heads in disbelief at the inadequacy of the grilling he received (“It could have been a turning point. But it sounded like your dad was asking the questions”). The chance to regulate Zuckerberg and big tech slipped away like sand through fingers.

If the film skips over the most recent events – like the virtually untrammelled use of Facebook by groups involved in the attack on Washington’s Capitol in 2021 and the whistleblowing of Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, who testified before Congress and provided tens of thousands of documents to back up her claims that the company knew of various harms being done but preferred maximising profits to safety – well, didn’t the world, too?

Despite the title, there is not much insight or even much real (never mind new) information here about Zuckerberg. His competitive nature is alluded to, his formidable smarts attested, and his current rebranding as a family man (“I only care about building something my girls can be proud of me for”) noted. But the man himself remains a blank. Is he evil? Or, as he and his early acolytes claim, dedicated to bringing humanity together and us all victims of the law of unintended consequences?

In a way, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the creation, not the man. It is clear now what it does, what it can do and what it will continue to do if not regulated – perhaps by people who understand how the internet works and why the greatest experiment ever carried out on a global population might benefit from a weather eye being kept on it. The relationship status of people v the metaverse? It’s complicated. Dangerously so.

skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion

Featured News