Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg is famous for his big New Year’s resolutions that have, in previous years, included such things as trying to learn Mandarin, finish a book a fortnight, and even building an AI-enabled house for himself.
However, his goal for 2018 appears to be to “fixing” his little billionaire baby, Facebook.
In a New Year’s post on Friday last, the 33-year-old vowed to remove hate posts from the social media platform and make users’ time on it more productive.
His post (which you can read in full at the bottom of this article) read: “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.”
Zuckerberg’s post appears to try and counter criticisms of the platform over the past 12 months and concerns by advertisers. Primarily, many are concerned about the power and reach of these huge tech companies such as Facebook and Google.
Those concerns, among other things, have included speculation that Russia used Facebook to try and change the outcome of the Presidential elections in late 2016.
A recent investigation also revealed that Facebook showed left-leaning news reports in people’s news feeds over more conservative viewpoints. While Facebook’s video platform, Facebook Live, reportedly live-streamed a number of heinous acts that included, among other things, shootings, murders and even suicides.
Zuckerberg’s New Year’s post read in full:
Every year I take on a personal challenge to learn something new. I’ve visited every US state, run 365 miles, built an AI for my home, read 25 books, and learned Mandarin.
I started doing these challenges in 2009. That first year the economy was in a deep recession and Facebook was not yet profitable. We needed to get serious about making sure Facebook had a sustainable business model. It was a serious year, and I wore a tie every day as a reminder.
Today feels a lot like that first year. 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.
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.
For example, one of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization. A lot of us got into technology because we believe it can be a decentralizing force that puts more power in people’s hands. (The first four words of Facebook’s mission have always been “give people the power”.) Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force.
But today, many people have lost faith in that promise. 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 centralizes power rather than decentralizes it.
There are important counter-trends to this –like encryption and cryptocurrency — that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands. But they come with the risk of being harder to control. I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.