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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Did you know that the Facebook movie ‘The Social Network’ is fiction?

Most narrative movies based on true events are, to a certain degree, fictionalized: events often get compressed, multiple real people sometimes are combined into a single composite character, and so on. But the assumption with movies based on fact — particularly with movies based on recent fact; that is, not historical fact the truth which may well be lost in the mists of time — is that they will bear more than a passing resemblance to reality.

So I was stunned when, this morning, I came across this headline:

Most People Don’t Know “The Social Network” Is Fiction

That appears at All Facebook (“The Unofficial Facebook Resource”), and the article is flabbergasting:

While there are few people who will ever know the true story behind the founding of Facebook, details have slowly leaked out over the years. The most recent set of details come in the form of a set of previously unpublished IMs in which Mark Zuckerberg explains why he diluted Eduardo Saverin, one of the initial co-Founders, out of the company.

After Eduardo didn’t take an offer to fly out to Palo Alto, Mark decided to push him out of the company. As he said in an IM to fellow co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, “He was supposed to set up the company, get funding, and make a business model. He failed at all three.” It’s a legitimate point, and it’s a problem which many co-founders have dealt with. When a “partner” doesn’t participate in the creation of a business, do they deserve an equal share just because that was the intent when an agreement was signed?

Zuckerberg clearly believe that Eduardo Saeverin didn’t deserve the equity. These types of details often get ignored or glossed over when we learn about companies being sold for billions of dollars, however it’s part of the chess game which is creating a business entity. Saeverin was not exactly happy about being diluted out of the business (understandably so).

The result? A massive hollywood movie based on a story which was pitched to Ben Mezrich by Saeverin and a cool billion dollars. Not a bad deal for someone who wanted to get revenge and simultaneously cash in on one of the hottest internet startups of the past decade. While readers of this site and other tech publications may know that the upcoming movie “The Social Network” is based on a fictionalized story about the founding of Facebook as described by Saeverin and sensationalized by Ben Mezrich and Aaron Sorkin, many people won’t know that.

I thought it seemed weird, back in 2008, when we learned that Aaron Sorkin was going to make this movie even though, as he plainly admitted, he knew absolutely nothing about the Internet or about Facebook. Now, it seems, this ignorance was not a bug but a feature. The movie was never meant to be even remotely connected to reality.

Did you know that the Facebook movie The Social Network is fiction?

I haven’t read extensively about the film, but I did assume that it would be at least loosely based on the reality of how Facebook came into existence. I think that’s not an unfair assumption. Am I wrong?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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