A nearly 6,000 word letter to the Facebook community posted by Mark Zuckerberg shows a broad vision for the future that has even led to speculation of a Zuckerberg run for the presidency. The letter elucidates a grand vision for the future of the global community, with networks like Facebook serving as a way to connect people in turbulent times. The letter also takes a apologetic look at the way Facebook has influenced politics, and allowed hate speech and “fake news” to be reach a wide audience. It reveals an underlying notion that Facebook should be a force for good in the world, and Zuckerberg’s concern that it so far has had the opposite influence.
The letter begins with a broad theory of history, espousing a story of humanity that entails steady progress towards global civilization, saying: “History is the story of how we’ve learned to come together in ever greater numbers – from tribes to cities to nations.”
The blogpost shifts between both these grand visions for humanity and ideas for near future Facebook policies, showing clearly that Zuckerberg sees a close relationship between the two.
“For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families. 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.”
Policy ideas for Facebook outlined in the letter include a new push towards facilitating real world interactions through social media, a new focus on keeping people safe from, and aware of, “risks related to mental health, disease or crime,” and continued efforts to mitigate the spread of “fake news” that many believe influenced the 2016 presidential election. Zuckerberg even apologizes for the way Facebook filters, or fails to filter certain political content, removing content important to movements like Black Lives Matter, while allowing falsified news stories and hate speech to spread.
“We’ve seen this in misclassifying hate speech in political debates in both directions — taking down accounts and content that should be left up and leaving up content that was hateful and should be taken down. This has been painful for me, because I often agree with those criticizing us that we’re making mistakes,” it said.
Notably, the letter concludes with an uplifting quote from Abraham Lincoln:
“We can succeed only by concert. It is not ‘can any of us imagine better?’ but, ‘can we all do better?’ The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, act anew.”
This, along with the grand scope of the letter, inspired speculation that Zuckerberg is setting his sights beyond the social media mega-corporation. After Zuckerberg hired political consultants and visited Texas in January as part of a pledge to meet with people in all 50 states in 2017, some observers have suggested the possibility of a 2020 or 2024 bid for the presidency.