Are you employing a criminal?

September 30th, 2010

If you knew someone who cheated his classmates out of millions of dollars; took the intellectual property of someone else and slightly modified it to call it his own; and turned on the only person he could call a friend, would you be proud to say you helped him become the world’s youngest billionaire?

This is what the movie “Social Network” might lead you to believe about Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. The film officially opens tomorrow, Oct. 1 and is based on Ben Mezrich’s book proposal for “The Accidental Billionaires.” The book is told mostly from a first person prospective of Zuckerberg’s former best friend and Harvard classmate, Eduardo Saverin. According to the Boston Globe, “Social Network” screenwriter Aaron Sorkin said, “[The movie] uses flashbacks, spun out during a pair of depositions — to make it clear that the story of Facebook is disputed, and the movie isn’t taking sides.”

The problem is that I left that movie with very strong feelings about what side I was on and I don’t think I came to those conclusions all on my own.

After an advanced screening last week, I left the movie detesting Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, founder of Napster, and myself for employing them.

The movie portrays Zuckerberg as a rude, arrogant genius who pushed aside friendship and ethics for personal gain. The movie is centered in a courtroom, where lawyers are deciding who is rightfully responsible for Facebook.

Saverin, the first CFO and financial contributor to Facebook, claims that he’s been cheated out of millions of dollars by his former best friend.

Divya Narendra and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, other Harvard students, are also suing the Facebook billionaire. While at Harvard, they approached Zuckerberg for assistance with their concept called Harvard Connection. The three men claimed Zuckerberg stole their idea. According to The New Yorker, “As [Zuckerberg] tells the story, the ideas behind the two social networks were totally different. Their [Narendra and Winklevosses’] site, he says, emphasized dating, while his emphasized networking.”

Regardless of the way the movie portrays Zuckerberg, those statements are true. He did face lawsuits from the four Harvard classmates. The questionable material is the addition of other scenes and the way Sorkin wrote Zuckerberg’s character.

Sorkin is best known for writing “West Wing.” It is ironically one of Zuckerberg’s favorite shows, according to The Face of Facebook, an article in the Sept. 20, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.

Zuckerberg may be reconsidering his love of Sorin’s work after the “Social Network” opens. Some believe he is already trying to save face by quickly becoming a philanthropist. On The Oprah Winfrey Show last Friday, Sept. 24, Zuckerberg announced a $100 million dollar donation to Newark, N.J. schools.

According to The Boston Globe, Sorin said, “This movie’s a true story.  It’s more than a true story. It’s several versions of a true story.’’

A Fortune500 article on by David Kaplan, seems to think quite the opposite. The article is titled “‘The Social Network mystery: Where are the lawsuits?” and claims “the moviemakers satisfied their own agenda: they went for accuracy (when it suited them) and were apparently able to defuse any potential Facebook thoughts of litigation, while at the same time being able to focus on ‘storytelling’ rather than ‘truth.’”

As for the more than 6,000 word article in The New Yorker, it is a more unbiased look at the billionaire, but it left me with the feeling that for the most part the movie is accurate. Zuckerberg is a genius, but he was so focused on the outcome that he forgot what it means to get there ethically.

But like more than 500 million others,  I still have a Facebook.