Yeah I saw The Social Network. I pretty much had to. I’ve been on Facebook multiple times a day, almost every day for the past five years, so you see, given my current addiction, I had no choice.
It was a really well-done movie, and it’s received a lot of critical acclaim. But looking at it from a publishing perspective, which is how I’m starting to see everything these days, there are a couple interesting angles.
After watching the movie and obsessively comparing fact from fiction on the Internet, I stumbled upon this CNNMoney article. Turns out, like many movies these days, this one was based on a book, Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal. Written by Ben Mezrich, the best-selling author who also wrote, Bringing Down the House, which was turned into the movie 21 in 2008, the Facebook book has received a lot of criticism. Mezrich is known for dramatizing and fictionalizing his work, and yet all of his books have been boldly categorized as non-fiction.
Now, I’m taking a publishing-related law class, and after several weeks of discussion, I’m scared that once I get a publishing job, everyone will sue me for everything. So how has Mezrich gotten away with his made-up scenes? True, he has done his best to get to the truth–interviewing multiple people close to Mark Zuckerberg, though he was unable to speak with Zuckerberg himself. But many people dispute his Facebook book as factual. For example, there is one scene in question where Zuckerberg sits on a yacht and eats koala meat.
Fortunately for Mezrich and Columbia Pictures, Zuckerberg does not seem to care enough to sue for libel. I did read somewhere that his company tried to influence how the movie would make him look, and his $100 million donation to the Newark, NJ schools just before the movie came out seemed more than coincidental. Still, it does not seem likely that this will go to court.
Hypothetically though, if this were to become a libel case, Mezrich clearly was banking on the fact that Zuckerberg is considered to be a public figure–which means if Zuckerberg sued for libel, he would have to prove actual malice. And that is very hard to prove, especially since Mezrich seems to whole-heartedly believe all his facts are correct.
In the big scheme of things, none of this matters. One of the articles I read for my Interactive Media class predicted that Facebook will be bigger than Google in about five years. It already has more page views than Google, and the social aspect of it will supposedly soon make people want to use it for searches instead of Google. I wish I knew how to code.