"I am disappointed. I am embarrassed. I am ashamed." So read an email Roger McNamee sent to Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg just days before the 2016 election. McNamee is the Zuckerberg mentor who convinced the Facebook CEO to hire Sandberg in the first place, and as an 11,000-word article by Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein for Wired explains, he was one of the first to notice the proliferation of fake news on the platform. The article takes readers through "the most tumultuous two years of Facebook's existence"—that would be these last two—based in part on interviews with 51 current and former employees (one so wary of his employer that he asked their phones be turned off so Facebook couldn't track the devices' proximity to each other).
Thompson and Vogelstein start with the "Trending Topics fiasco," then reveal details of a meeting between Zuckerberg and Rupert Murdoch in which Murdoch made it clear that the media industry needed to profit more handsomely from Facebook, or else. (The piece contains an interesting anecdote about Zuckerberg's "firsthand knowledge of Murdoch's skill in the dark arts.") All this as the fake news issue built, with management wary of making moves that could run afoul of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which frees Facebook of liability for content on the site so long as it doesn't create or edit content. Then came "that holy s--- moment": the realization that Russians were hacking and manipulating the platform. This as McNamee began to work against the company. For what came next and is still to come, read the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)