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Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to the US Congress has made for fascinating viewing. The Facebook chief gave the impression of being supremely in control of his vast company, not least thanks to his control of voting shares. But was this the magic of a sorcerer, or the naivety of an apprentice?

John Gapper argues in his latest column that Mr Zuckerberg has lost control of his creation, thanks to the unpredictable actions of Facebook's 2bn users. Fixing the social network’s lax attitude towards personal data is possible with greater effort and honesty, he argues. But reshaping human behaviour is much harder.

Facebook came to prominence by cleverly mixing “strong ties” of relationships (family and long term friends for example) with weak ones (such as casual colleagues). John says it is those looser networks that makes Facebook a powerful platform for wielding influence. Its structure means that good and bad actions can multiply rapidly. So no matter how much Mr Zuckerberg claims he is chastised and will make things right, his company’s future may not be in his hands.

web_Zuckerberg sorcerer’s apprentice for Wed 11th April online
© Ingram Pinn

The Middle East after America: 
Edward Luce argues Syria shows what the region will look like without the influence of the US. President Donald Trump has little appetite for doing anything in the region, he says, leaving it open to unintended geopolitical consequences.

Mysterious sounds in Cuba: 
Anjana Ahuja looks at a rumoured “sonic attack” in Havana and asks whether noise can weaponised. The answer is: probably not.

Rivalry and corruption in Malta: 
Alice Hancock visits Valletta and says that the shrine to a murdered journalist exposes the country’s growing pains as it integrates into the EU. Many of the Maltese she spoke to think corruption is rife there.

Best of the rest

The Law Is Coming, Mr. Trump — New York Times editorial board

Don’t target Facebook. The Internet has a much bigger problem. — David Ignatius in The Washington Post

We need the Open University more than ever — Alice Thomson in The Guardian

Both Sides Would Lose a US-China Trade War — Jack Ma in the Wall Street Journal

Zuckerberg got off lightly. Why are politicians so bad at asking questions? — Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian

What you’ve been saying

If UN is to stay relevant it must get rid of the veto— letter from Alison Hackett

In its founding charter the UN declares that it will strive to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion. Countries that regularly commit human rights abuses (poor women’s rights, for example, and persecution of religious minorities) are violating this charter. Why are they allowed to remain as members of the UN? The UN is not fit for its purpose. As a start, it should get rid of the veto, a device which is being used by bully states to the detriment of the most vulnerable — the very people the UN is supposed to be protecting.

Comment from Wenren on Zuckerberg emerges lightly grilled by US lawmakers

Outside of a only a few senators such as [Richard] Blumenthal or [Dick] Durbin, most senators reflect the technical sophistication of most Americans, i.e. next to none. They were like 40 blind men and women trying to describe the proverbial elephant. That’s why the questioning was so diffuse, oft ill-informed and oft smarmy . . . It’s no wonder that Facebook has gotten away with 14 years of lies, apologies for lies and then lies again. 

Short-term approach is foisted on management— letter from Stuart Dunbar

Whether fund managers across the industry are generally lazy is hard to say, but what is recognisable is that much of the industry has allowed itself to become entangled in a destructive and complex spider’s web of short-term index-relative risks and phoney quantitative sophistication that measures just about everything except that which matters most: the fundamental long-term prospects for the companies in which we invest on behalf of our clients.

Today’s opinion

Instant Insight: Paul Ryan’s exit decision may hit the Republican party’s pockets
The speaker’s fundraising abilities will be missed in November’s midterm elections

America’s long goodbye to the Middle East
The US under Trump no longer knows what part to play; little wonder others fill the vacuum

Rivalry and corruption animate Malta’s cultural capital
Valletta’s shrine to a murdered journalist exposes tension in the gateway to the EU

The US has fallen silent over its sonic attack theory in Cuba
Scientists struggle to prove claims Havana mission was targeted by weaponised sound

Instant Insight: VW needs to change more than just its chief executive
German carmaker’s move to replace Matthias Müller raises broader governance questions

Free Lunch: America’s fragile economic boom
Budget watchdog’s verdict suggests reforms are failing to transform longer-term outlook

The Big Read: Healthcare: Cancer breakthrough leads China’s biotech boom
New generation of cell therapies helps Chinese emerge as industry leaders

Mark Zuckerberg cannot control his own creation
Facebook’s design makes it influence users in powerful and unpredictable ways

The wealthy ‘Next Gen’ with their eyes on your assets Scions of family businesses are spurning partying in favour of prepping to take over

Zuckerberg emerges lightly grilled by US lawmakers
Facebook chief encounters unfocused calls for fresh regulation from oscillating Senators

FT View

FT View: The increasing pressure of sanctions on Vladimir Putin
The Russian president must be forced to change his calculus

FT View: A daunting task for the EU’s economic liberals
The Hanseatic League will struggle to win support from Germany

The Big Read

The Big Read: Healthcare: Cancer breakthrough leads China’s biotech boom
New generation of cell therapies helps Chinese emerge as industry leaders

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