Zuckerberg’s closed speech is hypocritical

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In the last decade, no one has shaped our culture’s understanding of privacy more than Mark Zuckerberg. He has created a phenomenally successful online service that makes it normal for us to post every detail of our personal information for our friends, families, and the world to see.

Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, is speaking at a recruiting event at Carnegie Mellon on Tuesday. He will speak to a capacity crowd in Wiegand Gym, and his talk will be simulcast in McConomy Auditorium. Pre-registered students, faculty, and staff will be attending.

If Facebook has its way, though, you won’t be seeing photos of Zuckerberg’s Carnegie Mellon visit on your friends’ walls. Both photographic and audio recording devices are strictly prohibited at Tuesday’s event, and media outlets’ attempts to cover the event have been rebuffed.

This ban is not only misguided, it is also futile. Nearly every person in the audience will be carrying at least one — if not several — devices equipped with multi-megapixel cameras, digital recording, video capabilities, and constant access to social networks.

But even if the ban is impossible, it is decidedly misaligned with Facebook’s goals. Facebook’s stated mission is to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”

Zuckerberg’s talk is closed, and Carnegie Mellon and the media are being denied the power to share it. Coming from a CEO and company whose guiding principle is openness, this denial can only be seen as highly hypocritical.

Sure, Facebook might promote openness because its leaders actually want information to flow freely across the internet. On the other hand, they might just be looking to bring in more advertising dollars through the page views that they know sharing on their network brings in.

If Zuckerberg and his company wanted to show their dedication to the ideals of universal sharing and a more open and connected world, and prove their goal is not just increased advertising dollars. Tuesday’s event should be an opportunity, not a media challenge. This week’s recruiting trip will be limited to three universities (Harvard, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon); no doubt students around the world would be interested in hearing what Zuckerberg has to say.

Allowing Carnegie Mellon to stream Zuckerberg’s talk would support the open and connected world that Facebook claims to support. The news media was sharing information long before Zuckerberg came up with the idea for, and denying it access denies people the access to information that Facebook claims to support.

While this may be Zuckerberg’s first campus tour, other members of Facebook’s leadership team have conducted similar closed meetings with other universities. Such precedents should be discouraged because they allow Facebook executives the ability to say whatever they please, without being held accountable to the media or other independent sources.

If Facebook and Zuckerberg are serious about their mission, they should apply its principles to everything they do. They should prove they aren’t just an advertising company in disguise.

Facebook events should be held in the spirit of Facebook the network. The restrictions placed on Tuesday’s event are against the spirit of openness that Zuckerberg and Facebook claim to prize.