I Read It So You Don’t Have To

I Read It So You Don’t Have To: ‘An Ugly Truth’

A pair of New York Times reporters offer an inside look at Facebook’s (mis)handling of its litany of scandals

Kaushik Viswanath
Marker
Published in
6 min readAug 9, 2021

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Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium

I Read It So You Don’t Have To is a series that gives you the TL;DR on a business book you want to read — but don’t have time to.

What did I read?

An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang.

So who are Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang?

They’re a pair of investigative technology reporters at The New York Times, based out of San Francisco and D.C., respectively, whose distinctions include being finalists for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and winners of the George Polk Award in recognition of their reporting on the social media giants.

Give me the 30-second sell.

An Ugly Truth is the latest in a long line of books that have narrated the story of the success — and missteps — of Mark Zuckerberg and his social media giant, from Ben Mezrich’s 2009 account The Accidental Billionaires (adapted by Aaron Sorkin into The Social Network), to Steven Levy’s Facebook (read an excerpt here) and Sarah Frier’s No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram (read an excerpt here), both published last year.

What distinguishes An Ugly Truth from these previous books is that Frenkel and Kang choose to tell the story of Facebook through the various security and misinformation scandals it has weathered since its inception, and the failure of its leadership to recognize the costs of its growth-at-all-costs approach or fix the harms its platform has been causing in the world.

Any particularly juicy bits?

If you’ve been following Facebook’s controversies over the last several years, from 2016’s Cambridge Analytica scandal to the decision not to fact-check political ads during the 2020 election, you’re unlikely to be surprised by any of the major events described by the book. What is much more interesting, however, is Frenkel and Kang’s reporting on how these…

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Kaushik Viswanath
Marker

Previously: Creators & Marker @Medium and business books at Penguin Random House.