March 5, 2021

Defending Democracy From Facebook Is Zuckerberg’s New Year’s Resolution?

Obama talks to Mark Zuckerberg
Is defending democracy against foreign interference a personal or public challenge?

Since 2009, Mark Zuckerberg has made an official New Year’s “personal challenge.” At that time, Facebook wasn’t yet profitable, and Zuckerberg decided he would wear a tie every day. On Thursday, he said the New Year “feels a lot like that first year,” only now the ubiquitous media giant is now contending with much more serious issues, like say, having negatively impacted the 2016 presidential election through the dissemination of Russian propaganda to at least 150 million Americans after taking Russian rubles in payment.

BuzzFeed shared a list of Zuckerberg’s past challenges:

2009: Wear ties
2010: Learn Mandarin
2012: Code
2014: Write thank-you notes
2015: Read books
2016: Build an AI
2017: Meet people
2018: Fix problems of abuse, hate, and foreign interference in elections on Facebook

Which New Year’s challenge doesn’t seem to go with the others?

It certainly doesn’t seem to harken to 2009.

As Chris Zappone, editor for a world news source put it, “Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg, defending democracy against foreign nation state interference is a public – not personal- challenge.”

At least Zuckerberg publically acknowledged the enormous problems it must attempt to “fix.”

“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.

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,” wrote Zuckerberg on Facebook.

Julia Carrie Wong, a journalist for The Guardian put the prospects for Zuckerberg this way:

“By attempting to take on these complex problems as his annual personal challenge, Zuckerberg is, for the first time, setting himself a task that he is unlikely to achieve. With 2 billion users and a presence in almost every country, the company‚Äôs challenges are no longer bugs that can be addressed by engineering code.”

Later in his post, he brings up a whole other complicated set of potential problems by suggesting Facebook might begin to use cryptocurrency to put power back into the people’s hands. The question remains: Who exactly will Facebook empower in 2018, and will it be good for democracy in America?

It’s clear that whatever the tech giant does, it will be done under high scrutiny following last year’s many serious issues.

Perhaps no-one in the media has been harder on Zuckerberg than Ari Melber, host of MSNBC’s The Beat. See him go after him in his video below, saying “working with anyone and everyone for the money is not good for democracy.”

See the whole post from Zuckerberg below or at this link.

Featured image: Barack Obama talks with Facebook founder via Wikimedia Commons

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