Micah Lakin Avni
Turning Trauma into Triumph: New Narratives for a New Israel
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Zuckerberg vs. Trump in 2020: Who controls cyberspace?

In an election, the Facebook founder would have unlimited influence on Americans' perception of reality
Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook, speaks at the CEO summit during the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Lima, Peru, November 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook, speaks at the CEO summit during the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Lima, Peru, November 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

As he attempts to quell rumors, it has become increasingly clear that Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder and CEO of Facebook, intends to run against President Trump in the 2020 election. Here are just a few indications:

  • In April, Zuckerberg clarified in an SEC filing that a leave of absence for government service would not be considered as “voluntary resignation” of his position at Facebook.
  • The young father has seemingly renounced his Silicon Valley atheism, saying religion is “important.”
  • The signature grey t-shirt and jeans have been replaced with a suit and tie for many photo ops.
  • But most telling is the personal challenge that he has undertaken for 2017. Zuckerberg publically committed to visiting all fifty states this year in order to “get out and talk to more people about how they’re living, working and thinking about the future.”

“Going into this challenge, it seems we are at a turning point in history,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “For decades, technology and globalization have made us more productive and connected. This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people it has also made life more challenging. This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone.”

Very presidential.

Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook, speaks at the CEO summit during the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Lima, Peru, November 19, 2016. (The Times of Israel via AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Mark Zuckerberg exerts more control over social media than any other person on earth. Facebook maintains profiles on over 150 million American citizens. They know everything about our personal lives and are privy to our most private conversations. They control the news — fake and real. They push information and connections to other users based on personal preferences, and throw people into feedback loops that influence and intensify the formation of opinions.

The recent election has raised concerns about phenomena like fake news and profiling. Many have attributed President Trump’s success to his savvy use of social media. Surely, the president understands the power of social media and he uses it effectively. But he does not control it. Facebook, Google and Twitter control social media.

Now let’s imagine for just a moment that Mark Zuckerberg has already decided to run in 2020. What is to stop him from using Facebook, the omnipotent tool that he created, to influence the way that the American people perceive reality in order to further his campaign?

Social media is having a damaging and deleterious effect on the world we live in. Children suffer from cyberbullying, shaming, loneliness and depression. Incitement encourages a culture of hatred and violence. Jihadist terror spreads like wildfire. Feedback loops create polarization. Fake news obscure the truth.

Modern countries spend billions of dollars a year on self-regulation and policing to protect their citizens. Almost all major areas of our public lives: finance, transportation, communication, broadcast, healthcare, and food are regulated. However, the Internet and social media have remained free from government oversite.

Last year, my father, Richard Lakin, was brutally murdered by Jihadist terrorists who had been radicalized on social media. Shortly after the attack, I wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg urging him to take responsibility for curtailing the dangerous phenomena that social media has unleased upon the world. My letter was ignored, as were many others. Facebook and the other folks in Silicon Valley have consistently proven that they are more concerned about the bottom line than the greater good. They talk big about building a perfect and healthy world, while closing their eyes to the spread of evil; generating billions of dollars in profits from the traffic generated by cyberbullying, fake news, hate speech and terrorism. The time has come to intervene.

Rudy Giuliani was recently appointed as President Trump’s cybersecurity advisor; perhaps the most important position in the new administration. Giuliani, more than anyone else, will have an impact on how the world looks in 2020, and on who gets elected.

About the Author
Micah Lakin Avni founded Peninsula Group Ltd., a publicly-traded Israeli commercial finance institution and served as CEO for 18 years. He was ranked among the 100 most influential people in Israel by The Marker Magazine in 2015, 2016 and 2018. Prior to founding Peninsula, Micah served as a General Partner with Jerusalem Global Ventures, and Israeli venture capital firm. Before joining Jerusalem Global Ventures, Micah was a corporate attorney with Yigal Arnon & Co., one of Israel's premier law firms. Micah serves in a volunteer capacity as the chairman of "Voices of Israel”, a long-term partnership between the State of Israel and the global pro-Israel leadership to facilitate ongoing strategic cooperation, counter the global Israel delegitimization movement and improve Israel's positive image and standing in world public opinion. In 2015, Micah’s father Richard Lakin was murdered by Hamas terrorists on a Jerusalem bus. While mourning the loss, Micah dedicated himself to raising awareness of the dangers of allowing terrorists to roam free on social media, communicating, recruiting, and inciting. He wrote op-eds in international newspapers, gave interviews, helped produce movies, lectured at universities, filed lawsuits and lobbied for legislation. These efforts helped set in motion a campaign that yielded dramatic change: While there is still plenty of work to be done, social media titans built significant infrastructures to remove terror groups from their platforms. Micah holds an LLB in Law from the Hebrew University Law School and a joint MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Recanati School of Business Administration at Tel Aviv University. Micah lives in Tel Aviv, Israel with his wife and four children.
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