A Tangled Web

Deception got us here. The truth provides some light.


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“Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!”
— Sir Walter Scott, 1806

This has not been a good week for Facebook’s communications team.

The company that has consistently used a strategy of delay, deny, and deflect is on the ropes as its own internal documents show how the company, aware of problems within and without — including teen suicide, human trafficking, and subversion of democracy — ignored the warning signs.

And worse: they hid the truth from the public.


This week, The Wall Street Journal released a series of investigative articles, drip-drip-dripping like water torture, with a single article being released each day.

The culmination, “The Facebook Files,” is a damning collection of pieces that indicate not only how intricately Facebook is woven into our lives, but how toxic it has become. In some ways, it was like putting a microphone up to human behavior, exposing or amplifying what was already there.

But worse than exposing us for who we are, it has exposed Facebook leadership for who they are: driven by profit, eager to err on the side of higher engagement rather than integrity.


Sown by so many doubts, conspiracy theorists, and other easily-distributed misinformation, there is a dearth of trust across much of society today. And not just with Facebook; the media, government, corporations…no one has a lock on mistrust.

Rather than subjecting you to more content by me, here’s my assignment for you: Go read The Facebook Files from the WSJ. It’s well worth the price of a digital subscription.

But just in case you don’t want to subject your already groaning wallet to more stress, here are free links to the series, courtesy of my own WSJ subscription:

  1. Facebook Says Its Rules Apply to All. Company Documents Reveal a Secret Elite That’s Exempt

  2. Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Many Teen Girls, Company Documents Show

  3. Facebook Tried to Make Its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead.

  4. Facebook Employees Flag Drug Cartels and Human Traffickers. The Company’s Response Is Weak, Documents Show.

  5. How Facebook Hobbled Mark Zuckerberg’s Bid to Get America Vaccinated

  6. Facebook Efforts to Attract Preteens Go Beyond Instagram, Documents Show

The bottom line is we need to deal in truth. Not my truth or your truth. The truth. Because that’s all that binds us together.

Timeless & Timely
Why Does Truth Matter, Anyway?
We seem to be in a post-truth society. Maybe a good story is better…
Read more

Unraveling that tangled web that has become such a Gordian knot is going to take the brute force of Alexander’s sword.

Isn’t it easier to deal in the truth in the first place?

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“Slaveholders pride themselves upon being honorable men; but if you were to hear the enormous lies they tell their slaves, you would have small respect for their veracity.” — Harriet Tubman, c. 1828


Why People Lie at Work — and what to do about it. (Harvard Business Review)



Secret sinning is no sinning at all. Molière on the glory of not getting caught. (Lapham’s Quarterly)



It can be difficult to go your own way. Particularly when the winds around you are blowing in a different direction. But you’ll be rewarded for doing the right thing. Authenticity Takes Courage. (Timeless & Timely)




“Not for any profit, but for the honor of honesty itself.” — Cicero, 45 BC


FTI, a global consulting firm, helped design, staff and run organizations and websites funded by energy companies that can appear to represent grass-roots support for fossil-fuel initiatives. Tactics included creating fake Facebook profiles to help FTI keep tabs on activists, and a document that laid out techniques to influence public discourse. (The New York Times)


The House Oversight Committee has widened its probe into the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming, calling on top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress. (The New York Times)



Odds are that when you see your doctor, you’d like to have confidence in their abilities. And their integrity. Online cheating charges upend Dartmouth medical school. (The New York Times)



Recommended Listening / Reading

“The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.” — Fred Rogers

🎧 As a companion to The Facebook Files, our suggestion is to listen to the episodes of The Journal that go into deeper conversations with the journalists behind the investigation. The most important stories, explained through the lens of business. A podcast about money, business, and power. Hosted by Kate Linebaugh and Ryan Knutson.

No book assignment this week, as The Facebook Files is reading enough. This is a series that will undoubtedly appear on the Pulitzer Prize nominations, if not on the list of winners for 2021.


Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.