Historian and documentarian Ken Burns was asked about his opinion of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg by the New York Times this week and he didn’t mince words.
Zuckerberg, Burns said, is “an enemy of the state” who deserves to be in jail.
Speaking to the Times’ Kara Swisher Aug. 2 on the podcast “Sway,” Burns was there to talk about his latest work, a film about boxing legend Muhammad Ali, which premieres on PBS Sept. 19. But the conversation covered a range of subjects including Burns’ staunch opinions on social media companies.
Swisher asked him, “who do you think would be the version of Muhammad Ali in 100 years?” and after naming voting rights activist Stacey Abrams Burns said, “She’s the real deal. I mean, I hope Zuckerberg is in jail by then.”
He continued, “This is an enemy of the state, and I mean the United States of America. He doesn’t give a shit about us, the United States. He knows he can transcend it. He can get away to any place. And so it’s just about filthy lucre, that’s it.”
Then Burns went after Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s current chief operating officer and Zuckerberg’s second in command. He also said there should be a global legal reckoning for Facebook and other social media companies akin to the 1946 Nuremberg Trials — though he also said it won’t happen.
“These people — and Sheryl is a complicit — the Nuremberg of this, is if it ever happens, which it won’t, will be pretty interesting,” Burns said. “The way that we’ve been able to temporize and say, oh, it’s okay, we’ll just go a little bit further.”
Though this interview barely touched on the subject of Zuckerberg besides Burns’ dig, the Facebook chief and Sandberg, according to the Times, have an increasingly strained relationship.
According to that July 9 New York Times report, Sandberg and Zuckerberg’s formerly “close working relationship” is fraying as Zuckerberg is taking on more of Sandberg’s responsibilities. As the article described it, “the view from inside the upper echelons of the company was clear: It felt as though Facebook was no longer led by a No. 1 and No. 2, but a No. 1 and many.”
The times reported that the two developed increasing political differences during the Trump era, which “tested a central relationship at Facebook — between Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Zuckerberg — and she became increasingly isolated.”