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The Trolling of Zuck & Pichai: ‘Monopoly Man’ Talks to The Quint

Exclusive | The mysterious yet viral ‘Monopoly Man’ is known to sit behind tech giants & troll them in hearings.

Updated
Tech and Auto
4 min read

Video Editors: Mohd Irshad Alam & Ashutosh Bhardwaj

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On 23 October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg found himself under a double attack within the hallowed walls of Washington DC’s Capitol Building.

While Zuckerberg sat facing members of the US House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee who grilled him for six hours, behind him sat an individual who has elevated creative trolling to artsy new heights.

If Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) led a tough line of questioning on Cambridge Analytica and disinformation, Ian Madrigal simultaneously led a tough line of photo bombing.

But, who is Ian Madrigal and why does their* appearance matter?

To answer this, let’s run a quick check.

Top hat - check

Bushy moustache - check

Monocle - check

Based on our astute analysis, Ian Madrigal is indeed the ‘Monopoly Man’.

Madrigal at Facebok CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Congresional hearing on 23 October. 
Madrigal at Facebok CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Congresional hearing on 23 October. 
(Photo courtesy: Ian Madrigal)

Activist Ian Madrigal, a lawyer, creative activist and a strategy director at Revolution Messaging (a progressive digital media firm) spoke to The Quint about once again unleashing their ‘cause-play’ and why they photo bombed the Facebook CEO.

The Monopoly Man had previously gone viral for his entertaining trolling of Google CEO Sundar Pichai in December 2018 and credit giant Equifax’s then-CEO Richard Smith.

(*Madrigal, a transperson, identifies with the gender-neutral pronoun ‘they/them’)

Why Does Madrigal Show Up To Hearings as the ‘Monopoly Man’?

Madrigal told The Quint that Facebook had anticipated their entry this time and got people to sit directly behind Zuckerberg to fill up the television camera frames.

“So, I had to get there super super early to get a place in line. Unfortunately, Facebook packed the room. They actually hired a private company to hold a spot in line for 10 of their people so that they could all be behind Zuckerberg and block me out.

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So, why does Madrigal put on the elaborate Uncle Pennybags costume from the popular board game Monopoly?

“Really the purpose of me doing that stunt is to call attention to the fact that Facebook is a monopoly. it doesn’t have a real competitor in what it does, it takes over this entire market, holds all our data and doesn’t actually take care of it,” Madrigal told The Quint

An essential feature of Madrigal’s ‘cause-play’ is a bag full of fake $100 currency notes. It was one of the highlights of his stunts during Pichai’s testimony on Google’s data collection, use, and filtering practices. However, his choice of currency underwent a curious change during Zuckerberg’s hearing.

“Because of the Russian connection, I traded out my trademark $100 bills for Russian Rubles and did the kind of normal thing I do,” Madrigal explained.

Madrigal at Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s Congresional hearing in December 2018. 
Madrigal at Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s Congresional hearing in December 2018. 
(Photo courtesy: Ian Madrigal)

Monopoly Man on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Grilling of Zuckerberg

AOC began her five minutes of question time with Cambridge Analytica, a topic that has come back to haunt Facebook regularly since it broke in April 2018. Drawing an analogy from Facebook’s business model of data mining of user information, she dug into Zuckerberg’s knowledge of the scandal, saying:

“I think you of all people can appreciate using a person’s past behaviour in order to determine, predict or make decisions about people’s future behaviour.”

Madrigal, who watched her questioning firsthand, said, “We saw this huge data breach in the US when Facebook gave our data to Cambridge Analytica. Which then worked with Russian organisations to flood our political systems with propaganda around the 2016 Presidential elections.”

Her next target was Facebook’s controversial decision to not fact-check speeches by politicians and remove all bars on political candidates lying in their paid advertisements on the platform.

Madrigal expressed particular concerns about the new controversial policy.

“So, it’s a huge issue that’s going to impact our elections to come. It might get Donald trump re-elected. So, I’m really glad she called that out. Unfortunately, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have an answer.”
Ian Madrigal, ‘Monopoly Man’

The CEOs Don’t Really Care: Madrigal

Madrigal concluded with a cautionary message about their experiences from the hearings they have attended.

“Mostly the answers they give to members of Congress are just saying 'I'll get back to you later.' They're not committing to anything in public,” Madrigal said.

“They essentially see themselves as unaccountable. They have all of this money, all of these resources and all of this influence. And so they don’t really care what the government does to try to stop them,” they added. 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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