Can Facebook really help build a global community?

What really happens when a billionaire businessman has a political agenda?

Mark Zuckerberg recently posted a lengthy and ambitious manifesto setting out Facebook’s future while responding to the ‘fake news’ controversy.  The manifesto detailed Zuckerberg’s vision of a global community, and suggests that Facebook is on its way to being a global ideological movement.

While thousands took to their keyboards to leave approving comments, some scepticism remains. The hefty proposition is in some areas a little vague, and leaves room for a number of questions.

What initially comes to mind is, how can you lead a global community when you profit from capturing users’ attention and then selling it to advertisers? Zuckerberg mentions “the people left behind by globalisation” all while managing to pay minute amounts of tax. How genuine is wanting to build on certain areas of our communities while being unwilling to pay towards benefiting the ones we have now?

Among claims that this is an attempt to purchase political power, perhaps we must acknowledge the fact that he has attempted to formulate a political vision in the first place. Of course, society needs powerful people with good intentions, but we must always look a little deeper.

Should Facebook be involving itself in a political agenda in the first place? The power that Facebook holds can be used to exploit citizens in unparalleled ways. The picture we can receive when thinking about Facebook’s involvement in the government is fearfully close to resembling ‘big brother’.

While Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community, when will we begin to see some changes? While the examples he gives which regard how Facebook is a tool for great changes, is it just that? A tool? At the end of the day, the power still resides in the people, and for us to help one another it takes the person to do so, and not the tool.


Is this what our future community looks like? (Source: Rosaura Ochoa via Flickr).

book’s future plans seem to rely heavily on artificial intelligence, which are still in the ‘early stages’ of creation. While Facebook is in a position to stop crisis, currently it can hardly seem to battle trolls with its current advances – let alone prevent harm.

Additionally, the risk of putting so much into an online community risks losing the offline one. As we become more and more concerned about what is happening online, we risk becoming less aware of what is happening offline. While it becomes easier to talk to strangers in cyberspace, it becomes more difficult to talk to our neighbours in reality. Is this the kind of global community we really want to build?

While Facebook has long encouraged people to spend increasing time online, where we can “look at many activities through the lens of a building community” like “reading our favourite newspaper” – all seems a little hypocritical while he fails to mention that activities such as reading our favourite newspapers will not always be an option if Facebook continues to prove itself as one of the biggest challenges to the publishing industry today.

A huge hand points to the old ‘actions speak louder than words’. Critical analysis aside – nothing is impossible, and technological advances have exceeded our expectations before. He is right to claim that it needs to start somewhere, and myself, I hope he succeeds.

(Featured Image: The Crunchies! via Flickr)





Is Zuckerberg killing journalism? A response to his ‘Building Global Community’ letter

Facebook CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg has connected friends and families across the globe for the past decade and now wants to connect everything in a bid to bring humanity closer together, with the objective of making the world a better place.

In February 2017, Zuckerberg published an almost 6,000 word letter to his Facebook page, offering an ambitious vision for Facebook’s global role. He acknowledged the mistakes that have been made by the social media giant and reflected on where Facebook is headed, extending its moves far beyond status updates and photo sharing.  Zuckerberg stated in his letter:

“Today we are close to taking our next step. Our greatest opportunities are now global – like spreading prosperity and freedom, promoting peace and understanding, lifting people out of poverty, and accelerating science. Our greatest challenges also need global responses — like ending terrorism, fighting climate change, and preventing pandemics. Progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community”.

In particular, Zuckerberg outlined five domains of focus that would contribute to developing the social infrastructure of our community. These included making communities “supportive“, “safe“, “informed“, “civically engaged” and “inclusive“. Such declaration of principles have the potential to help restore trust in the news information delivered on digital platforms, in which Zuckerberg declared as “critical to building an informed community”. He added, “giving people a voice is not enough without having people dedicated to uncovering new information and analysing it.”

However, his aspirations for Facebook merely describe building a media company with fundamental journalistic goals. He understands the importance of news organisations providing the basis for public action by building and strengthening community ties, stating in his manifesto: “reading local news is directly correlated with civic engagement”. Yet his letter is ignorant to the role that Facebook and other technology platforms are playing in inadvertently damaging local news media, and to the one way they could actually save journalism: with a massive philanthropic commitment.

facebook and magazines
Facebook is already an existing threat to print media

Facebook’s existing threat to journalism is well established, in part because local news’ business models have collapsed. As advertising spending shifted from print, TV and radio to the internet, the money did not mostly go to digital news organisations, but increasingly it goes to Facebook and Google. Facebook is much better at community building in the digital age than news organisations are, putting them at an advantage. Users willingness to pour endless personal information about themselves into Facebook allows the site to sell targeted advertising around them, making social media platforms appealing to businesses, whilst also saving businesses massive amounts of money, is a privilege newspapers cannot compete with.

Consequently, newsrooms have been decimated, with basic accountability reporting slashed as a result. Combining this with the repackaging of news online, whereby clickbait allows the function of building a news organisation without journalists, making news bias and not fit to serve its purpose. Journalism still requires a contextual search for truth, yet this process of destruction will put an end to journalism as we know it.

It is not Zuckerberg’s responsibility to solve journalism’s broken business model, but it could be argued that he has a moral imperative to do so given his position of power. With the money, the know-how and the obligation, maybe it is time for the disrupters to solve the problem’s journalism is facing; to create the nuanced world we want for generations to come.

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