In a 5,800-word letter he posted publicly, Zuckerberg expresses alarm that what was once considered normal — seeking global connection — was now seen by people and governments around the world as something undesirable.
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, on Thursday stepped into the raging debate about globalization.
In a 5,800-word letter he posted publicly, Zuckerberg expressed alarm that what was once considered normal — seeking global connection — was now seen by people and governments around the world as something undesirable.
He pledged that he would push Facebook, which has more than 1.8 billion users worldwide, in a direction that would help convince individuals and governments that “progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.”
The letter comes close to a political statement by a chief executive who, as the leader of a global company, is essentially arguing against a tide of isolationism that is rising across the world.
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Zuckerberg, 32, chose to make the statement as an update to his original founder’s letter, which was published in 2012 when Facebook went public. In that letter, he wrote that the social network “was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.”
In an interview this week at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, Zuckerberg said that when he started Facebook, “the idea of connecting the world was not controversial. The default assumption was that the world was just incrementally moving in that direction. Now, that’s actually a real question.”
Zuckerberg released his missive amid a fierce debate over the merits of globalization. In the United States, President Donald Trump has displayed a deep streak of nationalism. Last year, Britain voted to quit the European Union. Those moves and others have been taken as signs of how globalization has caused strains — making it more difficult for companies to navigate a new world order.
Against that backdrop, the timing of Zuckerberg’s letter is notable. While other technology executives, including Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, regularly update their founder letters each year — often tied to financial results — it is the first time Zuckerberg has refreshed Facebook’s mission statement since the company’s initial public offering.
Zuckerberg said his reasons for writing the updated letter began to take shape before last year’s presidential election, spurred by broader trends. He said he recognized that more people were feeling left behind by globalization, and by societal and technological changes. As a result, he wanted to focus different parts of Facebook in a way that helped people better come together.
“We have to build a global community that works for everyone,” he said. “I really don’t have much doubt that this is the right direction to go in the long term.”
Zuckerberg said he planned to reorient Facebook, which turned 13 this month, around these new realities. The letter is filled with abstract ideas, including the notion of “social infrastructure” and how to create stronger online communities, with few detailed steps about how to realize those goals.
One top priority is building inclusive online communities that are supportive, safe and informed environments, to help strengthen bonds in the offline world as well. Zuckerberg also stressed the idea of using Facebook to create this “social infrastructure” — essentially a digital means of connecting people around shared interests — mirroring social groups in the physical world like churches, governments and unions. That may encourage connections among people that transcend national and international barriers, he said.
While Zuckerberg mentioned several concrete steps that Facebook has taken toward some of these goals, he gave few other specifics. He also did not address how his vision might conflict with those of political leaders around the world.