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Facebook

The Inside Story
Written by: Steven Levy
Narrated by: Will Damron
Length: 18 hrs and 57 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"Levy’s all-access Facebook reflects the reputational swan dive of its subject.... The result is evenhanded and devastating.” (San Francisco Chronicle

“[Levy’s] evenhanded conclusions are still damning.” (Reason

“[He] doesn’t shy from asking the tough questions.” (The Washington Post

“Reminds you the HBO show Silicon Valley did not have to reach far for its satire.” (NPR.org)

The definitive history, packed with untold stories, of one of America’s most controversial and powerful companies: Facebook.

As a college sophomore, Mark Zuckerberg created a simple website to serve as a campus social network.

Today, Facebook is nearly unrecognizable from its first, modest iteration. In light of recent controversies surrounding election-influencing “fake news” accounts, the handling of its users’ personal data, and growing discontent with the actions of its founder and CEO - who has enormous power over what the world sees and says - never has a company been more central to the national conversation.

Millions of words have been written about Facebook, but no one has told the complete story, documenting its ascendancy and missteps. There is no denying the power and omnipresence of Facebook in American daily life, or the imperative of this audiobook to document the unchecked power and shocking techniques of the company, from growing at all costs to outmaneuvering its biggest rivals to acquire WhatsApp and Instagram to developing a platform so addictive even some of its own are now beginning to realize its dangers. 

Based on hundreds of interviews from inside and outside Facebook, Levy’s sweeping narrative of incredible entrepreneurial success and failure digs deep into the whole story of the company that has changed the world and reaped the consequences. 

©2020 Steven Levy (P)2020 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"Steven Levy is the founding guru of technology journalism. Few other writers can harness both access to top figures and critical insight informed by decades of reporting on Silicon Valley. His Facebook book will be a blockbuster, a penetrating account of the momentous consequences of a reckless young company with the power to change the world." (Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store and The Upstarts)

"The social-media behemoth Facebook comes across as an idealistic but also shady, exploitative, and increasingly beleaguered entity in this clear-eyed history.... Levy had extensive access to Facebook employees and paints a revealing and highly critical portrait of the company as it wrangled with charges that it violated users’ privacy by sharing their data with advertisers and political operatives, and served as a vector for manipulative fake news, pro-Trump Russian propaganda, and hate speech." (Publishers Weekly)

"Respected tech writer Levy (In the Plex, 2011) presents the definitive story of Facebook.... Given unfettered access to Zuckerberg and the company during the last three years, Levy is able to illustrate how the company developed under the influence of Zuckerberg’s acknowledged hypercompetitiveness.... This absorbing book will inspire important conversations about big tech and privacy in the twenty-first century." (Booklist)

"The value of this book lies in its putting together all the pieces of Facebook's privacy troubles, algorithms, and the Cambridge Analytica affair." (Library Journal)

What listeners say about Facebook

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    4 out of 5 stars

Great look into one of the world's worst companies

This is a great, detailed, journalistic look into the history of Facebook and it's sociopathic leadership. It does present things in a fair and generally unbiased way, giving credit to positive elements where it's due and whether you like Facebook or not (I don't if it isn't obvious), there are valuable things to take from this. As always, Will Damron does a fantastic job as the reader.

My only mild criticism is that the story tends to jump back and forth in time a lot and if you aren't paying close attention, you may lose track of where things are and what point in history certain events took place. I didn't have much trouble with this but others might.

If you have followed the news about Facebook over the years, some of what's relayed might sound like old news but even as someone who does, I took a lot from this. Never have I been happier to have removed Facebook from my life. You should consider it too.

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  • Robert ONeill
  • 2020-03-11

Two thumbs up for truth

Big fat thumbs up. Excellent journalism. Amazing detail in Cambridge analytica Steve bannon and trump and the Russians, and kushners hire that swung the election by manipulating the morons who read the newsfeed. Unintentionally this is a story of zuckerbergs greed and the willingness to sell out his users. Nothing has changed since he stole the idea at Harvard and said about his users if they are dumb enough to give me personal information that’s their fault.

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  • Terryhu
  • 2020-05-03

Facebook, a big social experiment in the digital world


A fascinating and detailed narrative of Facebook’s history, published only a few months ago, by the technology savvy journalist Steven Levy, who spent over 3 years interviewing all people relevant to Facebook, with “unlimited access”.

For a start-up aiming only at connecting the Harvard students 16 years ago to an online empire now connecting over 3 billion global users, It’s an amazing entrepreneurial success story, driven by a mentality that is all about “Growth” and “Winning”, a motto of “move fast and break things”; It’s a story of the power of creativity, an unprecedented power unleashed by technology; yet at the same time, it’s a story of how Facebook has become a perfect example of unchecked big corporate power; a story of humiliating failure and disgrace in protecting privacy; a story of confusion and struggle with choices, for Facebook the corporate, its community and the society at large, as digital social media evolved and continue to evolve.

The acquisition and integration of Instagram and WhatsApp, which contributed significantly to Facebook’s empire building, accounted for with a lot of the background stories in the book, now brought the antitrust scrutiny from the governments and exposes Facebook to the risk of break-up. It is a great lesson for founders of any start-ups who have their own values, visions and ambitions to ponder the potential of their trade sale to observe how Zuckerberg imposed his wills upon Instagram and WhatsApp and broke his own pledge to let them run independently and how this eventually led to the departure of the founders of these two companies. However, one may also marvel at the vision and the gut with which Zuckerburg would acquire Instagram for $1bn valuation one month before its own IPO in 2012 (while he was only 28) and WhatsApp at $19bn in 2014, while both companies were young and small, and their potential were yet to be proven.

As one of the biggest global social media platform, and hence one of the biggest consumer data companies, Facebook and Zuckberg is at the center for controversial topics such as data privacy, fake news, disinformation and misinformation, and the tremendous commercial success of Facebook is equalled by the damage to its reputation, so far.

“People think that we’ve eroded privacy or contributed to eroding it,” Zuckerberg tells Levy in their last interview. “I would actually argue we have done privacy innovations, which have given people new types of private or semiprivate spaces in which they can come together and express themselves.”

Whether you take a cynical view on Facebook being a “twenty-first-century corporate Gatsby, careless in its privileges, self-involved in serving its own needs and pleasures”, or you sympathise with Zuckerberg’s self labelled idealistic perspective that technology will eventually bring more good than bad, you can not argue with the trend that the whole globe is increasingly living in the digital world and increasingly more connected. There is no way going back. Facebook’s successes and failures are part of a big experiment of the entire mankind, as mankind evolves, while evolution takes its own course, with no pre-designed course and end game, trial and error, one thing leads to another, and technology is the “thing” now, leading to various things to happen, with or without our approval. Whether one believes or not in Zuckerburg’s “good” intention to connect the world, in supporting the value of sharing and free speech, the whole society needs to work together to find the right way to connect and to protect free speech. That is how the “trial and error” works in the history of natural selection.

Is Facebook a case of growing pain, huge pain coupled with huge growth, or a case where growth shoot its own foot? Is connecting as many people as possible in a social platform the most important value driven metric and the de facto choice, without which the long term sustainability and survival of the platform comes into question, or, the connectivity Facebook has pursued at all cost, has brought the challenge it could not fix, in a digital world where your system’s vulnerability could be exposed and exemplified overnight and comes back to tear the system apart. What, is the fundamental vulnerability for a digital platform, and is the size of the platform its own curse? Can Facebook fix the vulnerability by itself, or becomes the necessary victim in this big social experiment?

Finally, in Zuckerberg’s own words, “one has to take chances and one will make mistakes, otherwise, how do you know you are living up to your potentials”. That is the entrepreneurship I subscribe to.

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  • Ahmed Reza
  • 2020-03-07

Insightful and through

It was a very insightful expose on the many stories that weave together to make Facebook. It seems like a pretty balanced view of Facebook!

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  • Ian Kilpatrick
  • 2020-09-10

Went great until RUSSIA

This book is super informative and reads like history, that is until you get to the chapter called The Election. That’s when it suddenly reads like a spy novel. I’m disappointed that the author injected bias into an otherwise solid, informational book. The claim that this Russian-owned page that “might” have been seen by a couple hundred thousand FB users, changed the election outcome is laughable and far fetched.

I am in the middle of building my own social network and am reading this book as a way to know what to expect from Mark Zuckerberg in the future. Also to know how he thinks, his end goals for building Facebook. To that end this book has been extremely helpful and I appreciate the time and thought the author put into its content.

Well worth the read especially if you’re in the space.

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  • Hayk
  • 2020-08-24

Amazing FB bio the best ever

If you’re looking to understand the nitty gritty this book covers it all with full participation from Zuckerberg, Sandberg, the whole team even Bill Gates does an interview

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  • Ricardo JC
  • 2020-06-20

amazing!! mind changer

after reading this book you will not see Facebook and its users in the same way never again!

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  • Cody Konior
  • 2020-06-20

Fascinating

I hate Facebook and Zuckerberg but wanted to know what was going on. The book covers a whole lot of inside information and now I understand though my feelings haven’t changed. Some have complained about a lack of detail but this is a journalistic piece and I think the correct amount of depth. Recommended if you’re interested in free speech, privacy, world events, or IT.

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  • Raul
  • 2020-06-11

A story worth telling in the way that Levy does

Though I don’t come from any position to judge the accuracy of what Levy wrote, from an average reader’s perspective, the book seems unbiased and thorough in it’s telling of a story that continues to unfold today. I feel like I know so much more now about Facebook and the companies it acquired. I suppose at ~19 hours it may be long for some, but it never felt so to me, as the narration was excellent. Books such as this provide inspiration and caution, both of which I hope are taken to heart by anyone who reads it, particularly those on the path of entrepreneurship. Society romances the misguided ideal of being “uncompromising” in all of one’s values, and celebrates people driven to pursue their dreams and passions “at all costs.” That is, until fraud, manipulation, erosion of privacy, and the like, surface as those costs. History provides us with the guide we can use to become better and more responsible in what we do, and gives an idea of what pitfalls may lie ahead to be avoided, but it’s only useful if one takes the time to open it.

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  • Daniel
  • 2020-05-24

Very interesting

Steven Levy does a great job of creating a captivating book about a story most people know. Still, I was surprised about some of the revelations and inside info.

No bias from the author; he gave credit were credit was due but was also relentless in pointing out Facebook's horrible privacy issues and of course Cambridge Analytica.

Really great book.

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  • clive
  • 2020-05-03

F A N T A S T I C

Great story. Great voice performance. Even more interesting the second time around. I wonder what kind of future is in store for Facebook and us.