The young and educated of the 2000s were thrust into the internet to experiment exactly what they could make with it. So, Mark Zuckerberg built the website Facemash where Harvard students could rate the “hotness” of other students in 2004. As it grew in popularity, Harvard administration shut down the website after discovering that Zuckerberg had hacked into various university housing websites to scrape photos. He faced expulsion, but escaped with a lesson learned.
But he didn’t learn the intended lesson, he learned that he could easily build a website built on the human qualities of narcissism and curiosity to attract hundreds of users. With this lesson, Zuckerberg opened the first notebook of many and wrote his ideas for what would become Facebook. He wanted to open a network to the world to increase shared information while also considering the privacy concerns.
The Zuckerberg Lost Notebooks
The Zuckerberg lost notebooks have been destroyed by Zuckerberg himself ironically due to privacy concerns, but Steven Levy from Wired managed to find 17-pages of the lost notebooks that shed a light into Zuckerberg’s creative brain. Focused, disciplined, and uninterrupted writing filled the pages with long-term plans for Facebook. These pages held a sanctity for Facebook employees and treated as such.
The pages came from the “Book of Change” where he dabbled with the idea of “Dark Profiles” which were pages for users who haven’t signed up that their friends could create. These were meant to encourage non-Facebook users to see what people were sharing about them. Posed as a user recruitment method, Facebook tracked and collected data from people who had not consented.
In 2006, users were openly outraged with privacy concerns the News Feed brought. But Zuckerberg noticed that despite the outrage, the News Feed was working the way he wanted and quashed the backlash with an apology and gave users privacy settings. But this was just a part of the illusion to reassure users that they had control, but really, Facebook continued recording all data shared. Millions of these detailed records existed and held unprecedented power to influence social action.
From Social to Political
Zuckerberg found himself years down the road sitting in front of Congress to answer to the legality and ethics of tracking data that could be used to skew information. This was after Facebook was accused of election interference during the 2016 presidential election with the spread of misinformation. He handled the hostile environment with professionality and respect.
The story of Zuckerberg notebooks from college gives insight into the drive and determination Zuckerberg had to create Facebook to what it is today. He learned that he will make mistakes, but learned an apology could solve most. He might not have realized just how powerful his website would be and the potential global implications it could cause. Except that the Zuckerberg lost notebooks that started it all were destroyed for the same reason why Facebook is dangerous – because information in the wrong person’s hands can be used to spread anything to the 2 billion users.