By Tim Hunt
Changing the rules after the factUploaded: Dec 6, 2018
It’s almost laughable to watch a San Francisco politician—ever so politically correct—decide that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s name should be removed from San Francisco General Hospital.
Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $75 million to the hospital in 2015 as part of the renovation of the major public hospital in San Francisco. In exchange, his name would be attached to the hospital. Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff has his name on the UCSF Children’s Hospitals because of major gifts he and his wife have made over the years. Politically, I often find myself on opposite side of political issues with Benioff, but I admire his commitment to sharing his wealth.
San Francisco Supervisor Arron Peskin last week requested the city attorney institute a legislative process that could remove Zuckerberg’s name from the hospital and change the rules for swapping naming rights for substantial donations.
Peskin cited the spate of bad decisions and controversies that have dogged Facebook in the last couple of years, including the Cambridge Analytica issue. Ironically, Facebook willingly provided the 2012 Obama re-election campaign with the same information, but, because it was a Democrat campaign, nobody whined about it.
The supervisor is welcome to move to change the rules going forward, but this is a case where a deal is a deal. Just because you happen to not like what his company is doing is no reason to change tear up a contract after the fact.
Let me be clear: I am no fan of Facebook and rarely use it. My primary use is keeping up on what’s happening on Project Canaan (run by Heart for Africa) in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland). Co-founder Janine Maxwell uses the Facebook channel to keep people around the world up-to-date on what’s happening at the children’s home where 218 kids now live.
The government interest in Facebook also is of concern. It’s clear that most of Facebook’s staff are liberal and like Google, they have censored conservative viewpoints. These were not whacko extremist comments. As bad as the actions of the private companies have been, I shudder at the notion that the government is going to decide the rules for what can and cannot be posted.
One of the great strengths of the Internet is it gives a voice at a tiny cost to anyone with access. Although Google and Facebook control 57 percent of the digital advertising market, their market share shrank slightly in 2018. There is room for competition.