Facebook aims to be a bulwark against rising isolationalism

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/facebook-aims-to-be-a-bulwark-against-rising-isolationism

Published: 18 Feb 2017

SAN FRANCISCO • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has laid out a vision of his company serving as a bulwark against rising isolationism, writing in a letter to users that the platform could be the “social infrastructure” for the globe.

In his 5,700-word manifesto, Mr Zuckerberg, founder of the world’s largest social network, quoted Abraham Lincoln, the president during the 19th-century civil war in the United States who was known for his eloquence, and offered a philosophical sweep that was unusual for a business magnate.

Mr Zuckerberg’s comments on Thursday came at a time when globally, many people and nations, are taking an increasingly inward view. US President Donald Trump pledged to put “America first” in his inaugural address last month. That followed Britain’s decision last June to exit the European Union.

“Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community. When we began, this idea was not controversial… Yet now, across the world there are people left behind by globalisation, and movements for withdrawing from global connection,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote, without naming specific movements.


Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community. When we began, this idea was not controversial… Yet now, across the world there are people left behind by globalisation, and movements for withdrawing from global connection.

MR MARK ZUCKERBERG, founder of Facebook, writing in his 5,700-word manifesto titled Building Global Community.
The question, the chief executive said, was whether “the path ahead is to connect more or reverse course”, adding that he stands for bringing people together.

Quoting from a letter Lincoln wrote to Congress during the depths of the civil war, Mr Zuckerberg said in his letter to Facebook’s 1.9 billion users: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.”

The 32-year-old CEO also said Facebook could move far beyond its roots as a network for friends and families to communicate, suggesting that it can play a role in five areas, all of which he referred to as “communities”, ranging from strengthening traditional institutions and providing help during and after crises, to boosting civic engagement.

In comments on Facebook, some users praised Mr Zuckerberg’s note for staying positive, while others declared “globalism” dead.

Facebook has been under growing pressure to more closely police hoaxes, fake news and other controversial content, although the concerns have had little impact on its finances. The company has reported 2016 revenue of US$27.6 billion (S$39 billion), up 54 per cent from a year earlier.

One area where Facebook would do better, Mr Zuckerberg wrote, would be in suggesting “meaningful communities”. Some 100 million users are members of groups that are “very meaningful” to them, he pointed out, representing only about 5 per cent of users.

Facebook is also using artificial intelligence more to flag photos and videos that need human review, Mr Zuckerberg noted. One-third of all reports to Facebook’s review team are generated by artificial intelligence, he said.

Mr Zuckerberg’s letter was “a bit more ambitious and a bit more of the 30,000-foot view than I see from most tech company CEOs”, said Mr Peter Micek, global policy and legal counsel at Access Now, an international digital rights group.

But Mr Zuckerberg stayed away from certain subjects on which Facebook could be vulnerable to criticism, mentioning the word “privacy” only once, Mr Micek noted.

Summary of Main Points

Mark Zuckerberg’s full letter can be found @: https://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-zuckerberg/building-global-community/10154544292806634

While this article is about Facebook’s manifesto for its future, it is actually a good summary of the complex social and political issues that our globalized world faces today and the solutions that remain open. The original letter is pretty good too…

  • Globalization was once seem by most as an incontrovertible good. Today, more people are left behind by globalization and withdrawing from global connection.
  • Facebook aiming to be a platform to strengthen social infrastructures/fabric to empower people to build the global community they want, amidst a spreading isolationist movement (e.g. Brexit and “America First”).
  • 5-prong strategy to achieve goal: creating supportive, safe, informed, civically-engaged and inclusive communities:
  1. Online groups/communities to strengthen social ties between people who share common interests and using social media as tool for crowd-sourcing for disaster/emergency relief are ways to create supportive community.
  2. Facebook has mechanisms installed to promote safe communities (e.g. Safety Check, Whatsapp encryption for data protection, using AI to filter terrorist propaganda from real news).
  3. Social media is becoming the primary medium for civic engagement. Facebook seeking to keep users engaged in political issues that affect them to strengthen vibrancy of democracy amidst low political participation.
  4. An informed society is key to providing quality public discourse on the kind of world we want. Facebook seeks to provide users with diversity and accuracy of information to avoid sensationalism, fake news and polarization. Also, social media like FB enable people to know each other, instead of just the opinions they stand for. Forging relationships helps people dialogue on what they don’t agree on amicably.
  5. Facebook seeks revised community standards to govern its control of information spread on the site. Idea that censored content should follow cultural norms and personal standards.

Musings and Questions

  • To what extent is the Utopian dream of a “global community/world” achievable?
  • Is technology an instrument of societal stratification or unification?
  • Are too many being left behind in today’s world?
  • “Globalization is but an interim between long periods of isolation”. How well does this characterize the global state of affairs?
  • How reliable is modern news?
  • Is information security achievable today?

Posted by: Micaiah


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