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July 16, 2019 | Facebook’s Version of ‘How to Serve Man’

Rick Ackerman

Rick Ackerman is the editor of Rick’s Picks, an online service geared to traders of stocks, options, index futures and commodities. His detailed trading strategies have appeared since the early 1990s in Black Box Forecasts, a newsletter he founded that originally was geared to professional option traders. Barron’s once labeled him an “intrepid trader” in a headline that alluded to his key role in solving a notorious pill-tampering case. He received a $200,000 reward when a conviction resulted, and the story was retold on TV’s FBI: The Untold Story. His professional background includes 12 years as a market maker in the pits of the Pacific Coast Exchange, three as an investigator with renowned San Francisco private eye Hal Lipset, seven as a reporter and newspaper editor, three as a columnist for the Sunday San Francisco Examiner, and two decades as a contributor to publications ranging from Barron’s to The Antiquarian Bookman to Fleet Street Letter and Utne Reader.

Facebook gets deservedly bad press, and yet the stock is rapidly approaching record highs. The latest headline suggests the company’s planned foray into cryptocurrencies will be stillborn. Trump’s administration has cited national security concerns, but the real story is that no one trusts Zuckerberg any longer. Every time he gets caught violating users’ privacy in some appalling new way, he offers a perfunctory apology and then returns to business as usual. “We’ll try to do better,” he invariably says, recalling the Twilight Zone episode in which aliens from outer space present humanity with a book titled How to Serve Man that turns out to be a cookbook.

Another negative Facebook story this week that failed to deter exuberant investors concerned the FTC’s decision to fine the company $5 billion for past privacy violations that went uncorrected. This is just pocket change, equal to about three months’ revenues.  It works out to about $29 for every U.S. subscriber, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a check, since such fines never seem to find their way into the pockets of the aggrieved. You can be certain there will be more multibillion dollar levies in the future, if only because Facebook is perceived by its inquisitors as being able to pay them without missing a beat. Wall Street understands this, which explains why investors cynically thumb their noses at every reported instance of evildoing by the company.

Like a Government

Zuckerberg has all but begged regulators to tell him what he must do to make them happy. Obviously, he is confident he can get around any new rules while seeming to obey them. But we are all clueless as to how we might rein in Facebook. Zuckerberg has allowed that Facebook, with nearly two billion users, is more like a government than a company, but a corrupt government bent on fooling the masses can only envy the enormity of his success. His stated goal from the start was to become “dominant. Is it even possible to mean that in a good way?

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July 16th, 2019

Posted In: Rick's Picks

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