Did Mark Zuckerberg Just Publish Facebook's New Manifesto?

Photo: Courtesy of Facebook.
In an epically long letter just posted to his Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg announced a series of changes to the social network's unofficial mission statement that has been a long time coming. The change both acknowledges mistakes that have been made and reflects on where Facebook is headed.

“For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families," Zuckerberg writes in the letter. "With that foundation, our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for community — for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all.”

Facebook has been much more than just a place for connecting family and friends for awhile now — this is nothing new. But the election made it clear how large of a role Facebook can play in influencing news and opinions. Zuckerberg has commented on the spread of fake news across Facebook before, but reflects on it again in this post, saying, "We review over one hundred million pieces of content every month, and even if our reviewers get 99% of the calls right, that's still millions of errors over time. Any system will always have some mistakes, but I believe we can do better than we are today."

For those who have speculated that Zuckerberg may someday run for president, this statement will fuel further speculation. You only need to read through the first few paragraphs to imagine him standing at a podium, delivering a political policy speech. The New York Times referred to the letter as a "public stand against isolationism," and they're right. While Zuckerberg doesn't mention Trump or his administration by name, he does refer to the current climate, saying, "In times like these, the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us."

How, exactly, this social infrastructure will be developed and carried out isn't entirely clear just yet. But Zuckerberg does mention some changes that you can expect to see moving forward. There will be a "broader range of controls" for users, which will allow you to choose if you want to see violence, nudity, and profanity in your timeline. There will be a larger focus on creating meaningful groups that help you connect with people who are dealing with, say, similar health challenges. And there will be a major focus on developing AI that can analyze posts faster and more efficiently to identify those which are dangerous.

"Right now, we're starting to explore ways to use AI to tell the difference between news stories about terrorism and actual terrorist propaganda so we can quickly remove anyone trying to use our services to recruit for a terrorist organization," Zuckerberg says.

Make no mistake: While this statement is a call to action for Facebook, it's also a call to action for all of us — its users. We are and have been part of this global community and it's our responsibility, just as it is Facebook's, to foster the kinds of constructive conversations and sense of community that we want to see in our Newsfeed. This kind of change won't happen overnight, or even in a year. But we have to start somewhere.
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