Zuckerberg, Trump, and Exploitation

I’m not sure how many people are aware of how Trump stiffed contractors. Here’s an article on it. This kind of behavior makes him a dick, and I think a lot of people recognize that. Even if legal, it’s described as an unethical loophole. It’s exploitative. If you agree, you can keep reading. If you don’t, whatever; I’m not going to argue this point.

Now, let’s talk about Zuckerberg. I specifically bring him up because there’s speculation that he could potentially run for office. He is a liberal, so some people might be encouraged by this, but he is a rich capitalist. In fact, Zuckerberg’s exploitation exceeds Trump’s. Social media depends on people creating free content. The value is created by the users. But it’s not redistributed to the users. Facebook advertises against the content we create, but it keeps all the value and no creator is paid (aside from small exceptions). Their algorithms, for displaying content, displaying the best ads, facial recognition, all depend on the data that we create, yet we are not recompensed. Facebook’s exploitation of free labor far exceeds Trump’s in both monetary value and the number of people exploited.

We don’t see it because we are taught to work within the framework of capitalism. Trump’s exploitation is more obvious because he had an agreement. Whereas with facebook, we click approve for a user agreement that let’s facebook do this. Nothing should be redistributed to the user, because in capitalism, the value that’s created belongs to the capitalist. Under capitalism, when an employee develops a tool that makes them more productive, the excess value is captured by the company and the employee merely gets what she was already making (or less). So really, it’s not just a problem with the Zuckerbergs or the Trumps of the world (although they are particularly egregious cases), but a problem with the system of capitalism itself. As a society, we lack imagination. We need to start imagining a world where instead of Zuckerberg being able to buy land in Hawaii and possibly elections, the workers are the ones who get the value of what they create. People will tell you that this will never happen, but many of them are the same ones who insisted that Brexit would never happen, that Trump would never win the primary, that Trump would never be president, and perhaps they are the same ones who insisted that Iraq had WMDs.

And I’ve limited this conversation merely to exploitation. Zuckerberg’s views are troubling in general, as well. But that’s a different conversation, and I’m not interested in that one yet.

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