At the beginning of every year Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg sets himself and undertakes a fun challenge for the year. However, for 2018 he has just announced he is setting himself what seems like an extremely ambitious serious task: he promises to fix Facebook on how it handles abuse, hatred and fake news.
“My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues. We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we’re successful this year then we’ll end 2018 on a much better trajectory.”
In comparison, his previous years’ challenges have been relatively light-hearted and more of a personal improvement opposed to improving the company he famously founded from his college dorm in 2004.
2009: Wear a tie every day
2010: Learn Mandarin
2011: Only eat animals he kills himself
2012: Code everyday
2013: Meet a new person everyday who doesn’t work at Facebook
2014: Write at least one thank you note everyday
2015: Read a new book every two weeks
2016: Code an AI assistant
2017: To visit all states to ‘get out and talk to more people’.
In a post on his own Facebook page today, Zuckerberg said, “The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.”
This Facebook post of his own comes following many controversies last year that Facebook contributed to spreading fake news, hatred and divisions – especially in the wake of US election.
Zuckerberg’s shift from personal ‘fun’ challenges to serious business ones suggests Facebook is willing to accept its vitally important role as a central distributor of news and information in modern society. And therefore, they are also ready to take responsibility and accept their shortcomings and areas necessary for improvement in that role.
“This may not seem like a personal challenge on its face, but I think I’ll learn more by focusing intensely on these issues than I would by doing something completely separate. These issues touch on questions of history, civics, political philosophy, media, government, and of course technology. I’m looking forward to bringing groups of experts together to discuss and help work through these topics.”
Whilst Facebook aren’t directly announcing any changes or new schemes today, Zuckerberg’s sincerity and bluntness in a post that is usually far less serious is good to see.
He also admits whilst major tech companies such as Facebook have gained immense power, there is a growing mistrust of them. He also discusses the fact that people thought the internet was supposed to be decentralising power, whereas it’s new apparent power has handed the power back to the select few. “With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralises power rather than decentralizes it.”
Zuckerberg points to some technologies that are opposing the common trend such as encryption and cyptocurrencies. However, overall people have ‘lost faith’ in the Internet being about to decentralise things and therefore, companies such as Facebook need to be more responsible. He says although ‘harder to control’, he wants to, “study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.”
In the recent years, Facebook has faced many complaints about the unprecedented power the social network holds and general danger of it. Even in a press release last month by Facebook, titled Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?, they admitted it can be upsetting and disruptive to rely on social media.
The majority of Zuckerberg’s post is extremely commendable and although not offering concrete plans, does provide the reassurance that he will be looking into the issues with the same commitment he offered his previously successful yearly challenges. Will Facebook give up its extremely profitable role as the most popular hub for online communication and information? Of course it won’t. However, Zuckerberg’s acknowledgement of the concerns of many of its users at least sets the precedent that they will start to address and correct them.