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Publisher's Summary

One of the Best Technology Books of 2020 - Financial Times

"Levy’s all-access Facebook reflects the reputational swan dive of its subject.... The result is evenhanded and devastating." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"[Levy’s] evenhanded conclusions are still damning." (Reason)

"[He] doesn’t shy from asking the tough questions." (The Washington Post)

"Reminds you the HBO show Silicon Valley did not have to reach far for its satire." (NPR.org)

The definitive history, packed with untold stories, of one of America’s most controversial and powerful companies: Facebook

As a college sophomore, Mark Zuckerberg created a simple website to serve as a campus social network.

Today, Facebook is nearly unrecognizable from its first, modest iteration. In light of recent controversies surrounding election-influencing "fake news" accounts, the handling of its users’ personal data, and growing discontent with the actions of its founder and CEO - who has enormous power over what the world sees and says - never has a company been more central to the national conversation.

Millions of words have been written about Facebook, but no one has told the complete story, documenting its ascendancy and missteps. There is no denying the power and omnipresence of Facebook in American daily life, or the imperative of this book to document the unchecked power and shocking techniques of the company, from growing at all costs to outmaneuvering its biggest rivals to acquire WhatsApp and Instagram, to developing a platform so addictive even some of its own are now beginning to realize its dangers.

Based on hundreds of interviews from inside and outside Facebook, Levy’s sweeping narrative of incredible entrepreneurial success and failure digs deep into the whole story of the company that has changed the world and reaped the consequences.

©2020 Steven Levy (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Steven Levy is the founding guru of technology journalism. Few other writers can harness both access to top figures and critical insight informed by decades of reporting on Silicon Valley. His Facebook book will be a blockbuster, a penetrating account of the momentous consequences of a reckless young company with the power to change the world." (Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store and The Upstarts)

"The social-media behemoth Facebook comes across as an idealistic but also shady, exploitative, and increasingly beleaguered entity in this clear-eyed history.... Levy had extensive access to Facebook employees and paints a revealing and highly critical portrait of the company as it wrangled with charges that it violated users’ privacy by sharing their data with advertisers and political operatives, and served as a vector for manipulative fake news, pro-Trump Russian propaganda, and hate speech." (Publishers Weekly)

"Respected tech writer Levy (In the Plex, 2011) presents the definitive story of Facebook.... Given unfettered access to Zuckerberg and the company during the last three years, Levy is able to illustrate how the company developed under the influence of Zuckerberg’s acknowledged hypercompetitiveness.... This absorbing book will inspire important conversations about big tech and privacy in the twenty-first century." (Booklist)

"The value of this book lies in its putting together all the pieces of Facebook's privacy troubles, algorithms, and the Cambridge Analytica affair." (Library Journal)

What listeners say about Facebook

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Not a history of Facebook

This is a brief overview of the founding of FaceBook wrapped on hours and hours of fake news Democrat talking points. If you still believe the Russian collusion narrative - this is for you. If you just wanted a history of FB, go away, this isn’t it.

Also note that the far left author completely failed to mention any details of the Lucky Palmer scandal - where Lucky was forced by Zuck (literally written by Zuck who told him to sign and release the note under Palmers name) to issue a statement that he didn’t support Trump and then was told he created a hostile work and was basically fired. That didn’t make the cut for this book, but hours and hours and hours of Russians buying ads did make the book. What didn’t make the book, a finding by USA Today that showed the Russia literally ran as many anti-Trump ads as anti-Hillary ads - because, as anyone with a brain knows, their entire point was to stir the pot. Finally the book doesn’t go into the fact the Fake Russian dossier was literally funded by Hillary, literally and directly.

Overall this is a completely worthless book and only your typical leftist nut jobs would think otherwise.

9 people found this helpful

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Two thumbs up for truth

Big fat thumbs up. Excellent journalism. Amazing detail in Cambridge analytica Steve bannon and trump and the Russians, and kushners hire that swung the election by manipulating the morons who read the newsfeed. Unintentionally this is a story of zuckerbergs greed and the willingness to sell out his users. Nothing has changed since he stole the idea at Harvard and said about his users if they are dumb enough to give me personal information that’s their fault.

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Went great until RUSSIA

This book is super informative and reads like history, that is until you get to the chapter called The Election. That’s when it suddenly reads like a spy novel. I’m disappointed that the author injected bias into an otherwise solid, informational book. The claim that this Russian-owned page that “might” have been seen by a couple hundred thousand FB users, changed the election outcome is laughable and far fetched.

I am in the middle of building my own social network and am reading this book as a way to know what to expect from Mark Zuckerberg in the future. Also to know how he thinks, his end goals for building Facebook. To that end this book has been extremely helpful and I appreciate the time and thought the author put into its content.

Well worth the read especially if you’re in the space.

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A book that promotes liberal agenda

A book to promote liberal agena. a one sided view about elections. waste of time.

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Confirmation Of A Dangerous Man

Like Hitler, Mark Zuckerberg is a smart and driven man. And, I believe zuck to be just as dangerous because of his manipulation of information and hunger for power.

The narration performance was excellent.

Levy wrote a well-documented book and I enjoyed the history lesson about FB and it's tyrannical founder. At the end, however, I still wondered if Levy respects Zuckerberg or fears him.

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Fascinating

I hate Facebook and Zuckerberg but wanted to know what was going on. The book covers a whole lot of inside information and now I understand though my feelings haven’t changed. Some have complained about a lack of detail but this is a journalistic piece and I think the correct amount of depth. Recommended if you’re interested in free speech, privacy, world events, or IT.

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Facebook, a big social experiment in the digital world


A fascinating and detailed narrative of Facebook’s history, published only a few months ago, by the technology savvy journalist Steven Levy, who spent over 3 years interviewing all people relevant to Facebook, with “unlimited access”.

For a start-up aiming only at connecting the Harvard students 16 years ago to an online empire now connecting over 3 billion global users, It’s an amazing entrepreneurial success story, driven by a mentality that is all about “Growth” and “Winning”, a motto of “move fast and break things”; It’s a story of the power of creativity, an unprecedented power unleashed by technology; yet at the same time, it’s a story of how Facebook has become a perfect example of unchecked big corporate power; a story of humiliating failure and disgrace in protecting privacy; a story of confusion and struggle with choices, for Facebook the corporate, its community and the society at large, as digital social media evolved and continue to evolve.

The acquisition and integration of Instagram and WhatsApp, which contributed significantly to Facebook’s empire building, accounted for with a lot of the background stories in the book, now brought the antitrust scrutiny from the governments and exposes Facebook to the risk of break-up. It is a great lesson for founders of any start-ups who have their own values, visions and ambitions to ponder the potential of their trade sale to observe how Zuckerberg imposed his wills upon Instagram and WhatsApp and broke his own pledge to let them run independently and how this eventually led to the departure of the founders of these two companies. However, one may also marvel at the vision and the gut with which Zuckerburg would acquire Instagram for $1bn valuation one month before its own IPO in 2012 (while he was only 28) and WhatsApp at $19bn in 2014, while both companies were young and small, and their potential were yet to be proven.

As one of the biggest global social media platform, and hence one of the biggest consumer data companies, Facebook and Zuckberg is at the center for controversial topics such as data privacy, fake news, disinformation and misinformation, and the tremendous commercial success of Facebook is equalled by the damage to its reputation, so far.

“People think that we’ve eroded privacy or contributed to eroding it,” Zuckerberg tells Levy in their last interview. “I would actually argue we have done privacy innovations, which have given people new types of private or semiprivate spaces in which they can come together and express themselves.”

Whether you take a cynical view on Facebook being a “twenty-first-century corporate Gatsby, careless in its privileges, self-involved in serving its own needs and pleasures”, or you sympathise with Zuckerberg’s self labelled idealistic perspective that technology will eventually bring more good than bad, you can not argue with the trend that the whole globe is increasingly living in the digital world and increasingly more connected. There is no way going back. Facebook’s successes and failures are part of a big experiment of the entire mankind, as mankind evolves, while evolution takes its own course, with no pre-designed course and end game, trial and error, one thing leads to another, and technology is the “thing” now, leading to various things to happen, with or without our approval. Whether one believes or not in Zuckerburg’s “good” intention to connect the world, in supporting the value of sharing and free speech, the whole society needs to work together to find the right way to connect and to protect free speech. That is how the “trial and error” works in the history of natural selection.

Is Facebook a case of growing pain, huge pain coupled with huge growth, or a case where growth shoot its own foot? Is connecting as many people as possible in a social platform the most important value driven metric and the de facto choice, without which the long term sustainability and survival of the platform comes into question, or, the connectivity Facebook has pursued at all cost, has brought the challenge it could not fix, in a digital world where your system’s vulnerability could be exposed and exemplified overnight and comes back to tear the system apart. What, is the fundamental vulnerability for a digital platform, and is the size of the platform its own curse? Can Facebook fix the vulnerability by itself, or becomes the necessary victim in this big social experiment?

Finally, in Zuckerberg’s own words, “one has to take chances and one will make mistakes, otherwise, how do you know you are living up to your potentials”. That is the entrepreneurship I subscribe to.

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Insightful and through

It was a very insightful expose on the many stories that weave together to make Facebook. It seems like a pretty balanced view of Facebook!

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The Interior Workings of Facebook

This was an interesting and comprehensive look into the history of Facebook. The author spent three years and had unprecedented access to Marc Zuckerberg and his revolving door team. It ends in 2019. Given what happened last year, author Levy may have to do a follow-up on last year alone. This book covers Facebook's birth, growth and many growing pains, including buying former competitors, What's App, Instagram and others. It also shows how blindsided the company was by its misuse of user data that wound up being used by right wing Republicans, that aided Russia and other hackers to influence a US and foreign elections, not to mention becoming a platform for fake news and hate speech. The amount of data collected on users is staggering. Insightful, informative, thought provoking this is an excellent work, ably narrated on audio by Will Dameron. Learn why so many employees left, especially higher ups.

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Much More Than Social Network

The book provides in depth back story on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and many main characters. A lot more stories beyond the movie Social Network.

The author had first hand access and interviews with many former and current employees, so it provides a comprehensive picture on the evolution, challenges, and future of Facebook.

Although the audible is over 18 hours, I enjoyed listening to it from start to finish.