An Ugly Truth Book Summary - An Ugly Truth Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

An Ugly Truth summary

Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang

Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination

4 (266 ratings)
29 mins

Brief summary

"An Ugly Truth" by Sheera Frenkel & Cecilia Kang is a gripping account of how Facebook's relentless pursuit of growth over safety has left its users exposed to exploitation, misinformation, and violence, and the company mired in controversy.

Table of Contents

    An Ugly Truth
    Summary of 8 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 8

    From the very start, Zuckerberg valued engagement over ethics.

    December 8, 2015. A new video appears on Facebook. In the short clip, Donald Trump, then just one of many presidential hopefuls, is delivering a fiery speech. He rails against terrorists, against immigrants, and then he calls for a total and complete ban of Muslims entering the United States.

    The clip goes viral – within hours it’s been shared 14,000 times and accumulates more than 100,000 likes. For many employees at Facebook, Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric is hate speech, a clear violation of the site’s terms and conditions. They want it removed from the site.

    Mark Zuckerberg disagrees. After meeting with Joel Kaplan, the VP of public policy, Zuckerberg deems the speech too “newsworthy” to delete. The clip remains up to be shared even more.

    The key message here is: From the very start, Zuckerberg valued engagement over ethics.

    Even as a Harvard undergrad, Zuckerberg’s approach to social networking caused controversy. In fact, his first platform, FaceMash, was a short-lived blog designed to rank the attractiveness of his female classmates. It was popular, but not with everyone. The site received so much criticism from student groups that Zuckerberg decided to develop a new, less shocking project – Thefacebook.

    Launched in 2004, this simple, early iteration of what we now call Facebook only had a few features. It let students set up personal pages, connect with other users, and leave each other messages. Still, it was a massive hit on campuses. By 2005, the platform had more than one million members and most were logging in more than four times a day. The site’s success prompted Zuckerberg to leave Harvard, move to Palo Alto, and run Facebook as a full-time endeavor.

    In these early years, Facebook grew in leaps and bounds and the site was feted as Silicon Valley's next big thing. The hype was so strong that in 2006 Yahoo tried to buy the company for a billion dollars. Zuckerberg turned down the offer. Despite being shy, awkward, and young, he had ambitious plans for the company. Rather than focusing on profits, he aimed for growth. He continually pushed his small number of staff to make the site more engrossing and entertaining.

    In September 2006, Facebook launched the News Feed. This new feature gave users a centralized hub displaying activity from all their friends. At first, the Feed was unpopular – users were put off by the information overload and sudden lack of privacy. Yet, Facebook’s metrics told a different story. The Feed made people log on longer and share more – exactly what Zuckerberg wanted.

    Want to see all full key ideas from An Ugly Truth?

    Key ideas in An Ugly Truth

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is An Ugly Truth about?

    An Ugly Truth (2021) is a critical look behind the scenes of Facebook. This in-depth investigation reveals the politics and personalities animating the rise and subsequent missteps of this controversial social media behemoth.

    An Ugly Truth Review

    An Ugly Truth (2021) exposes the dark side of social media, shedding light on the powerful algorithms that shape our online experiences. Here's why you should dive into this eye-opening book:

    • It uncovers the underbelly of social media giants, unraveling the truth behind their algorithms and the influence they have on our lives.
    • Using in-depth research and interviews with industry insiders, the book reveals shocking revelations about privacy breaches and the manipulation of user data.
    • With its juxtaposition of scandals and human stories, it grips readers' attention, leaving them with a deep understanding of the internet's impact on society.

    Who should read An Ugly Truth?

    • Internet addicts looking to understand cyberspace
    • Political junkies addicted to their News Feed
    • Anyone who has ever logged on to social media

    About the Author

    Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity reporter for the New York Times. Previously, she’s written for a diverse range of outlets including BuzzFeed, NPR, and the Times of London.

    Cecilia Kang is a technology and policy reporter for the New York Times. Previously, she spent a decade writing for the Washington Post.

    As a team, Frenkel and Kang have won the George Polk Award for National Reporting, the Gerald Loeb Award for Investigative Reporting, and were finalists for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.

    Categories with An Ugly Truth

    Book summaries like An Ugly Truth

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    31 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    An Ugly Truth FAQs 

    What is the main message of An Ugly Truth?

    The main message of An Ugly Truth is the impact of social media on society and the need for regulation.

    How long does it take to read An Ugly Truth?

    The reading time for An Ugly Truth varies based on reading speed, but it generally takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in around 15 minutes.

    Is An Ugly Truth a good book? Is it worth reading?

    An Ugly Truth is worth reading for its insightful exploration of the social media industry and its implications for society.

    Who is the author of An Ugly Truth?

    Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang are the authors of An Ugly Truth.

    What to read after An Ugly Truth?

    If you're wondering what to read next after An Ugly Truth, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Google Leaks by Zach Vorhies and Kent Hecklively
    • How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes
    • The WikiLeaks Files by Julian Assange (introduction)
    • Third Millennium Thinking by Saul Perlmutter
    • Think This, Not That by Josh Axe
    • Superforecasting by Philip E. Tetlock & Dan Gardner
    • Never Give an Inch by Mike Pompeo
    • Money Men by Dan McCrum
    • Fascinate by Sally Hogshead
    • Mission Economy by Mariana Mazzucato