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Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s hardest year, and what comes next

It’s been a tough year for Facebook. The social networking juggernaut found itself engulfed by controversies over fake news, electoral interference, privacy violations, and a broad backlash to smartphone addiction. Wall Street has noticed: The company has lost almost $100 billion in market value in recent weeks.

Behind Facebook’s hard year is a collision between the company’s values, ambitions, business model, and mind-boggling scale. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has long held that the company’s mission is to make the world more open and connected — with the assumption being that a more open and connected world is a better world. That assumption has been sorely tested over the past year. As we’ve seen, a more open world can make it easier for governments to undermine each other’s elections from afar; a more connected world can make it easier to spread hatred and incite violence.
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In 2017, Facebook hit more than 2 billion monthly users — and that’s to say nothing of the massive user bases of Facebook-owned properties like Instagram and WhatsApp. There is no way to track, or even understand, all that is happening on Facebook at any given time. Problems that look small in the moment — like organized disinformation campaigns mounted by Russia — reveal themselves, in retrospect, to be massive, possibly even world-changing, events. 

I spoke with Zuckerberg on Friday about the state of his company, the implications of its global influence, and how he sees the problems ahead of him.

“I think we will dig through this hole, but it will take a few years,” Zuckerberg said. “I wish I could solve all these issues in three months or six months, but I just think the reality is that solving some of these questions is just going to take a longer period of time.”
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But what happens then? What has this past year meant for Facebook’s future? In a 2017 manifesto, Zuckerberg argued that Facebook would help humanity takes its “next step” by becoming “the social infrastructure” for a truly global community.

Remarkably, Facebook’s scale makes this a plausible vision. But it comes with a dark side: Has Facebook become too big to manage, and too dangerous when it fails? Should the most important social infrastructure of the global community be managed by a single company headquartered in Northern California? And does Zuckerberg’s optimism about human nature and the benefits of a connected world make it harder for him to see the harm Facebook can cause?

Ezra Klein

I want to begin with something you said recently in an interview, which is that Facebook is now more like a government than a traditional company. Can you expand on that idea?
Mark Zuckerberg

Sure. People share a whole lot of content and then sometimes there are disputes between people around whether that content is acceptable, whether it’s hate speech or valid political speech; whether it is an organization which is deemed to be a bad or hateful or terrorist organization or one that’s expressing a reasonable point of view.

I think more than a lot of other companies, we’re in a position where we have to adjudicate those kinds of disputes between different members of our community. And in order to do that, we’ve had to build out a whole set of policies and governance around how that works.

But I think it’s actually one of the most interesting philosophical questions that we face. With a community of more than 2 billion people all around the world, in every different country, where there are wildly different social and cultural norms, it’s just not clear to me that us sitting in an office here in California are best placed to always determine what the policies should be for people all around the world. And I’ve been working on and thinking through: How can you set up a more democratic or community-oriented process that reflects the values of people around the world?
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That’s one of the things that I really think we need to get right. Because I’m just not sure that the current state is a great one.

Ezra Klein

I’d love to hear more about where your thinking is on that because when Facebook gets it wrong, the consequences are on the scale of when a government gets it wrong. Elections can lose legitimacy, or ethnic violence can break out.

It makes me wonder, has Facebook just become too big and too vast and too consequential for normal corporate governance structures, and also normal private company incentives?
Mark Zuckerberg

We’re continually thinking through this. As the internet gets to a broader scale and some of these services reach a bigger scale than anything has before, we’re constantly confronted with new challenges. I try to judge our success not by, “Are there no problems that come up?” But, “When an issue comes up, can we deal with it responsively and make sure that we can address it so that those kinds of issues don’t come up again in the future?”

You mentioned our governance. One of the things that I feel really lucky we have is this company structure where, at the end of the day, it’s a controlled company. We are not at the whims of short-term shareholders. We can really design these products and decisions with what is going to be in the best interest of the community over time.
Ezra Klein

That is one of the ways Facebook is different, but I can imagine reading it both ways. On the one hand, your control of voting shares makes you more insulated from short-term pressures of the market. On the other hand, you have a lot more personal power. There’s no quadrennial election for CEO of Facebook. And that’s a normal way that democratic governments ensure accountability. Do you think that governance structure makes you, in some cases, less accountable?

Mark Zuckerberg

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I certainly think that’s a fair question. My goal here is to create a governance structure around the content and the community that reflects more what people in the community want than what short-term-oriented shareholders might want. And if we do that well, then I think that could really break ground on governance for an internet community. But if we don’t do it well, then I think we’ll fail to handle a lot of the issues that are coming up.

Here are a few of the principles. One is transparency. Right now, I don’t think we are transparent enough around the prevalence of different issues on the platform. We haven’t done a good job of publishing and being transparent about the prevalence of those kinds of issues, and the work that we’re doing and the trends of how we’re driving those things down over time.

A second is some sort of independent appeal process. Right now, if you post something on Facebook and someone reports it and our community operations and review team looks at it and decides that it needs to get taken down, there’s not really a way to appeal that. I think in any kind of good-functioning democratic system, there needs to be a way to appeal. And I think we can build that internally as a first step.

But over the long term, what I’d really like to get to is an independent appeal. So maybe folks at Facebook make the first decision based on the community standards that are outlined, and then people can get a second opinion. You can imagine some sort of structure, almost like a Supreme Court, that is made up of independent folks who don’t work for Facebook, who ultimately make the final judgment call on what should be acceptable speech in a community that reflects the social norms and values of people all around the world.

Source :https://www.vox.com/

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