Facebook Replaces Naïveté with Specifics in New Mission Statement (Jun 22, 2017)
Facebook has today announced a new mission statement at its event for managers of Groups on the platform. The old mission statement was “Making the world more open and connected” and the new one is longer and more specific: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” What’s clear from the way Mark Zuckerberg talks about the change is that he had previously supposed that merely getting people connected and online would be enough to be a force for good in the world, which demonstrates the kind of naïveté about the impact of technology that’s common to many tech companies. The reality is that technology and the Internet in particular are merely tools, which can be used for both good or ill, and it feels like more and more companies in the industry are finally starting to understand this and talk about it. In Facebook’s case, which in reality is Mark Zuckerberg’s case personally, the tipping point appears to have been last year’s US presidential election, in which he first denied that Facebook played any kind of negative role but has now conceded that its effect certainly wasn’t neutral. But we’re also seeing some of this recently from Microsoft, with Satya Nadella again the CEO-standard bearer for being a force for good in the world, with his main focus on AI, as a counterpart to Zuckerberg’s new mantra of community. But Tim Cook at Apple has also been determined to use his company’s resources to effect social and environmental change to a far greater extent than Steve Jobs, and others seem to be drifting in this direction too. That’s a good thing, especially when those leaders are wise enough and not too self-absorbed to see that to the extent that their companies can be part of the problem, they can’t be the entirety of the solution. That’s a bridge Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t yet seem to have crossed, something I first noted in the context of his manifesto from earlier this year, given that he still seems to feel Facebook is the solution to the problem Facebook causes or negative things it enables. As such, his goal to have a billion people be members of what he terms meaningful groups is a goal entirely centered on Facebook and Groups with a capital G. Regardless of whether those people are already members of meaningful groups such as neighborhoods, churches, service organizations, families, or others in real life, the only thing Zuckerberg wants to measure is how that activity is reflected on Facebook itself. As such, though Zuckerberg definitely seems to be evolving and maturing in his views on the impact of technology in general and Facebook in particular, he still has some way to go.
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