Cheating in The Social Network
The movie The Social Network depicted the story behind the creation and growth of Facebook. The founder of the website, Mark Zuckerberg was named in a lawsuit filed by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, accusing him of stealing the idea for Facebook from them and collecting a large amount of money in the subsequent success of the website. In considering the accusation of whether Zuckerberg was ‘stealing,’ the concepts of asymmetry and incentives are discussed here.
In the film, Zuckerberg was presented with an idea by the Winklevoss twins. That idea expanded upon an original concept of Zuckerberg’s. Mark Zuckerberg combined his idea with that of the Winklevoss’s and developed a social networking site which was to become known as Facebook. Referring to Zuckerberg’s activities as portrayed in the The Social Network as cheating is not justified. He used information asymmetry in achieving his goal by taking an idea which was originally his and expanding upon it with that of the Winklevoss’s. The idea that Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss brought to Zuckerberg was not well laid out. They were looking for Zuckerberg to do the brainwork as well as the legwork to develop their idea. While the Winklevoss’s idea sparked Zuckerberg’s imagination to help expand upon his original idea, the original intellectual property was his. Knowing that the essence of time was critical in development of a social networking site, Zuckerberg moved forward in combining Winklevoss’s idea with his own. While Zuckerberg’s failure to tell the Winklevoss’s that they needed to find another programmer and that he was expanding upon their idea for his own project would have been the right thing to do, his actions, because they were based upon his original idea, would not be regarded as cheating. Zuckerberg used information asymmetry to his benefit in terms of combining two ideas and developing a product from those ideas. Also, the economic, social and moral incentives which may have driven Zuckerberg are to be considered in determining whether Zuckerberg was cheating.
Information asymmetry definitely played a role in the beginnings of Facebook. Zuckerberg’s original thoughts were expanded by the Winklevoss brothers’ idea; however, the Winklevoss brothers did not have the knowledge or technical skill to bring their idea to fruition. As a result, Zuckerberg, whose knowledge and information provided him with the opportunity to take an original idea to scale, was the true developer of Facebook. . His ideas were original and forward thinking, and Zuckerberg learned that in the early stages of development it is important to get one’s information formulated and organized fast because whoever has the idea first is going to be more successful. Zuckerberg, once given an idea which supported his original theory, was able to expand that theory because of his wealth of technical information and programming skill. According to popular economists Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dunbar in Freakonomics, “it is common for one party to a transaction to have better information than another party. In the parlance of economists, such a case is known as information asymmetry. We accept as a variety of capitalism that someone (usually an expert) knows more than someone else (usually a consumer)” (61). Mark Zuckerberg (the expert in this situation) not only possessed the original idea, but expanded it (with input from the Winklevoss brothers) to the social network that it became. In considering whether Zuckerberg ‘stole’ Facebook from the Winklevoss brothers one must consider his intent. Zuckerberg’s intent was to develop a social network which could benefit society; he seemed more concerned about being first and making his site “cool” than making money. He felt he was doing the right thing, and because of his lack of background and social skill, he did not realize that any action he had taken was immoral or unethical. Mark...
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