After month upon month of asking (or in this case, ‘poking’ maybe) the Beeb have finally been granted an audience with Mark Zuckerberg, the besandled internet revolutionary who gave us Facebook and made every Western office at least half as productive in the process. But while this docu-journey is an interesting jaunt that often contradicts the ‘de facto Facebook myth’ of The Social Network, Emily Maitlis never manages to push ‘Zuck’ himself on the hard topics. While this is disappointing, it’s not unexpected and the 27 year-old has a cabal of followers (or should that be friends?) who are willing to talk about the company’s touchier subjects for him.
As you can imagine, they don’t see the fact that Facebook profits from associating its users with multi-national brands without their knowledge as a problem. They prefer to call these user-based ads ‘stories’. Indeed there is one excellent scene in which one of Zuck’s employees stumps himself when trying to explain why they don’t count as a piece of advertising, but for the most part this isn’t quite the piece of investigative television that it could have been. Having said that, most of Facebook’s privacy issues have been well-documented, although it’s intriguing to hear one expert suggest that the company’s main tactic is to make a bold stand and then retreat a few steps if there’s a public outcry, giving the impression that it has backed down.
What Inside Facebook does do well is offer an alternative version of events for those who’ve seen David Fincher’s well-liked film, which was dismissed as grossly inaccurate by Facebook PR machine. In his exchanges with Maitlis, Zuckerberg seems far-removed from the insular, awkward and at times unbalanced youth that Jesse Eisenberg paints him as. He talks of making people’s lives richer and the benefit of sharing more with gusto, but you are very conscious that behind the facade is a hardened interior that belies his tender years and hearing that he turned down a $1 billion offer from Yahoo! and then $15 billion from Microsoft when he was just 23 is a real eye-opener. “You have to have an almost insane degree of vision and self-confidence” says one of his old pals from Harvard. We later found out that back in 2004, Zuckerberg had asked him if he wanted to be a part of his new website, but was told to “stay away by his old man”. Thanks dad..