Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up."  

-Pablo Picasso

(Listed on Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook profile under "Favorite Quotes")


There's a story about Mark Zuckerberg visiting his hometown of Dobbs Ferry, New York: A few years ago

, he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, allegedly walked into Yuriy's Barber Shop, a four-chair parlor with a blue awning over the doorway and a neon "open" sign buzzing in the window. The shop sits in a brick building at the end of Cedar Street, one of the main drags in town.

Zuckerberg, who grew up in the sleepy town about 25 miles north of New York City, was supposedly visiting from California. Yuriy Katayev, who claims to have been his high school barber, says he was excited to see his old regular. The 50-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan tells me he asked Dobbs Ferry's most famous son about -- What else? -- Facebook.

"It's OK. People give me shit over it now," Katayev says Zuckerberg told him. 

"It's not easy to control now -- because it's too much," Katayev tells me Zuckerberg said. "It's too big."

Great story, but Zuckerberg says it's not true. Three days after telling Zuckerberg's representatives that we'd spoken to his barber, Zuckerberg says he doesn't know Katayev and never visited his barbershop. Katayev, who proudly posed for photos in his shop, swears the visit really happened. 

Which shows how much Facebook's chairman and chief executive gets caught up in his own version of fake news. 

And fake news was one of the issues that drew Zuckerberg to Capitol Hill last week, where he was grilled by US lawmakers over how he and the world's biggest social network have screwed up. Facebook, Zuckerberg now admits, has become a tool for hate groups who use the platform to harass and intimidate, and for state actors like Russia to manipulate opinion through false news with the aim of interfering with elections, including the 2016 US presidential race.

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Dobbs Ferry, New York, barber Yuriy Katayev says Facebook's chief shared his thoughts about the social network. Zuckerberg says it's fake news. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Just in the past month, Facebook has been hammered for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it mishandled users' data by being, in its own words, "naive" about how others could exploit the personal information Facebook collects on its 2.2 billion users. That info is its main currency. Knowing your age, location, likes, interests and other personal data allows it to target lucrative ads on your news feed. It's also why Zuckerberg, 33, is now the fifth richest person in the world, with a net worth of about $71 billion.

"We didn't do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm," Zuckerberg said as he apologized repeatedly during 10 hours of testimony in two hearings before the Senate and House. "It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here."

For better or worse, Facebook and Zuckerberg have become the proxy for all of Big Tech. It's part of the reason lawmakers, already concerned that companies like Facebook, Google and Apple have too much power and influence over our lives and the economy, demanded Zuckerberg testify -- as if answering for the entire industry.

Facebook's mistakes have also raised questions about whether Zuckerberg is a trustworthy custodian of people's data, and whether he's the right person to oversee one of the most powerful information platforms on the planet. Forty-three percent of Facebook users say they're "very concerned" about invasion of privacy, up from 30 percent in 2011, according to a Gallup poll released last week.

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Mark Zuckerberg in his high school yearbook. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

"While Facebook has certainly grown, I worry it has not matured," said Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a Republican from Oregon. "It is time to ask whether Facebook may have moved too fast and broken too many things."

Zuckerberg, through a spokesman, declined to be interviewed for this story.

Zuckerberg's turn on Capitol Hill marks a dramatic fall from popularity for the CEO. Just last year, he set out on a nationwide tour to learn how people "are living, working and thinking about the future." He released photos of himself doing stuff like helping out at a farm and working on a car assembly line. The trip was one of his annual challenges, basically New Year's resolutions on steroids. Past challenges have included learning Mandarin, building an AI assistant for his home and eating meat only from animals he'd killed. (For 2018, he said on Jan. 4 he was "focusing on fixing" Facebook.)

But as he crisscrossed the country last year, people began to wonder whether he might be preparing to run for elected office -- even president -- someday.

These days, not so much.

Amid all the scrutiny around Zuckerberg, I wanted to see firsthand what people thought of him. So in January, I visited one of the more controversial stops on his trip: Williston, North Dakota, a major hub for the fracking industry in the United States. I wanted to understand the mechanics of how his tour unfolded and to see what the people of Williston learned from him and what he learned from them. Of all the cities on Zuckerberg's tour, Williston may have been the most interesting stop for him, a source close to Zuckerberg said.

I also ended up in the one place he didn't visit on his tour: his hometown. It makes sense he'd skip Dobbs Ferry, since his goal was only to stop by states he'd never visited before. But if we're all products of our environment, it was useful to get a raw, inside glimpse of one of the most powerful people in the world from those who knew him early on: people including his old fencing coach, classmates and neighbors.

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Last year, Zuckerberg went on a listening tour to small town America. Clockwise from top left: ranch in Piedmont, South Dakota; candy story in Wilton, Iowa; cattle farm in Blanchardville, Wisconsin; Sunday service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Facebook

Well before the 2016 election or the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook's size has been a topic of scrutiny. It's a giant corporation with more than 27,000 employees worldwide and offices around the world, including Silicon Valley, New York, Brazil, London and Thailand. As a social network -- and a vehicle to reach the people of planet Earth -- its reach is unmatched.

But it's not just Facebook's size that's under the microscope. Its very nature is being examined and, with it, its boy wonder co-founder. Zuckerberg will go down as one of the most important American entrepreneurs, ushering us into the digital age like no one before. He tamed the Wild West of the internet by basically giving us all name tags and a place to post baby pictures, political rants and anything else we wanted to share.

As Facebook has grown, so has Zuckerberg's influence. He is essentially his generation's William Randolph Hearst -- an outsize figure with his hand increasingly in the worlds of news and politics. There are some striking similarities: Both men dropped out of Harvard, made their fortunes in the San Francisco Bay Area and had acclaimed movies made about them.

Both popularized clickbait, though in Hearst's day it was called yellow journalism. Both men have their fingerprints on wildly consequential global affairs: Hearst bragged about starting the Spanish American War, while Zuckerberg, to his dismay, saw his platform twisted into a propaganda tool during the 2016 US presidential election. 

But while Hearst was a proud media tycoon, Zuckerberg has only recently come to acknowledge that he's responsible for the content posted on Facebook. Zuckerberg maintains that Facebook is a technology company and a social networking platform -- not a media company. It's perhaps one reason Facebook is trying to loosen its grip on news -- tweaking its news feed algorithms this year to focus more on personal posts than news stories.

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Zuckerberg testified for two days before Congress about Facebook's data privacy. 

Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images

That effort may be moot, since Facebook is still one of the most powerful content aggregators and news distributors in the world. About two-thirds of Americans use Facebook, and a majority of those get news on the social network, according to the Pew Research Center.

Citizen Zuck doesn't need to be our president. In some ways, he's more powerful. So who is he?

Zuckerberg grew up in a white house with gray-trimmed shutters, on a quiet street corner on the east side of Dobbs Ferry. The terraced lawn is lined with rocks and small bushes. A brick stairway leads to the front door, and a gray stone walkway spirals over to the side of the house, where there's an entrance to a dental office. Out front, a wooden park bench with a sign hanging next to it greets patients: E. Zuckerberg, D.D.S. DENTIST.

The "E" stands for Edward, Mark's dad, known around town as "Painless Dr. Z." He's a dentist from Brooklyn who married Karen Kempner, a psychiatrist from Queens. They moved to Dobbs Ferry in 1980. Four years later, on May 14, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg was born.

Dobbs Ferry, a town of about 11,000 people, is a postcard for upper middle class suburbia. It's about 80 percent white. From the train station on the Hudson, which shuttles most of its professional class down the river to Grand Central Terminal, fog rolls off the water and you can see the Manhattan skyline in the distance. The town has tree-lined streets and storybook architecture. There's no litter or graffiti in sight, though the stop sign on the corner of Zuck's old house has a sticker on it that says "resist," which may give you a hint as to the leanings of the town (or at least parts of it).

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Zuckerberg, co-captain of the men's fencing team, poses with the 2000 Ardsley High women's fencing team.

Photo courtesy of Diane Reckling

Everyone in Dobbs Ferry knows Zuckerberg grew up here -- his name rings around town like Prince's does in Minneapolis, or Lebron's in Akron.

"It was a great environment to grow up in," says Dobbs Ferry Mayor Bob McLoughlin. His son played youth soccer with Zuckerberg and his daughter often served him when she worked at the pizzeria on Main Street. "If you have two great parents like he did, you had a head start in life."

All the locals seem to have a story of the Zuckerbergs. At Pride Cleaners, a nearby dry cleaner, the owner Chong Park remembers Mark coming in as a young boy with his mom. Park's mom, Sang Kyu, worked the register and Mark would ask her, "Nana, could I have a lollipop?" Sang Kyu, who spoke Korean and not much English, would give him a Dum Dum.

The Zuckerbergs don't live here anymore. Edward ran his dental practice from the side of the house until a few years ago, even after Facebook's IPO made him extremely wealthy. Not dentist rich, Silicon Valley rich. Mark's parents sold the 2,500-square-foot house for $900,000 in 2013, according to property records, and moved to California. His father now runs a consultancy called Painless Social Media.

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Source:CNET

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Source:Daily Mail

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Source:Birmingham Mail

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Source:CNET

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Source:ABC News

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Source:Daily Mail

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half

Source:Birmingham Mail

Nottingham Train Station Fire: How Events Unfolded Over The Course Of A Dramatic Day And A Half