We’re no longer living in the 1970s, so we don’t need to use physical letters or hold social gatherings to stay updated. Our daily lives are now weaved with the oh-so widely existent internet, forming a “social fabric” around us. And Facebook, thus, has come to be known as an important part of the same.
The social media giant’s mission has from the start been “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Facebook has surely succeeded in connecting nearly 2 billion users in the ten years of their existence. But, the company is now changing its mission to extend beyond just connecting individuals across the globe because there were shortcomings and blind spots in the same. These have now come to the surface and the original mission statement needed tweaking to incorporate these changes.
Thus, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has today penned a whopping 5000+ word letter to reiterate Facebook’s mission going forward. The company now isn’t focused on just connecting individuals but also on what happens to them after the community has been built. Zuck is of the opinion that change comes slow and we need to start working right away to give individuals the power to build a powerful global community that can accommodate all of us. Speaking on the subject, his personal letter reads,
For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families. With that foundation, our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for the community.
To make this a reality, the social media giant is looking to divert its attention towards five key goals that’ll help build a global community that supports us, keeps us safe, informed, civically engaged, and reflective of collective values and humanity. And Facebook, which is at the center of this whole change, is hoping to commit all of its energy in building long-term social infrastructure to connect bring humanity together under one roof.
In his letter, Zuckerberg flags off the conversation by defining the first step to make humanity more supportive. This can be made possible by bringing users with similar interests together to form a collective and help each other. There is already enough hate, abuse, and terrorism around the world and Facebook wants to eliminate that by encouraging healthy interest-based discussions via groups and other new social tools.
The social media giant now aims to connect individuals through the creation of “very meaningful” groups or clubs. Though over a billion users partake in one group discussion or another, Zuckerberg is of the opinion that only “meaningful” ones matter to their platform. And the company is now looking to provide meaningful community leaders with tools to build similar groups to connect people with that common interest (is it going the Reddit way!? focus on communities!?). Talking about the same, he says,
Online communities are a bright spot, and we can strengthen existing physical communities by helping people come together online as well as offline. In the same way connecting with friends online strengthens real relationships, developing this infrastructure will strengthen these communities, as well as enable completely new ones to form.
Further, building a supportive community comes with the huge responsibility of ensuring the safety of others with you. And Facebook now wants to provide everyone with updated tools to accomplish just that. The company is already making amber alerts, safety checks and other innovative solutions available for maintaining an envelope (and connection) between the online community.
Now, the social media giant wants to expedite its efforts for building artificial intelligence tools to quickly and accurately recognize patterns that help better understand what’s happening across its communities.This also includes the recognition of what’s safe for certain individuals to look when they’re scrolling through their News Feed.
Further, it is more important to recognize if the said content should be censored or not. This was one of the prominent causes, the Napalm girl photo, which caused massive controversy around Facebook. And the company is looking to employ AI solutions to now better understand such situations, with inputs from the community. The same has been described in the official letter as under:
Artificial intelligence can help provide a better approach. We are researching systems that can look at photos and videos to flag content our team should review. This is still very early in development, but we have started to have it look at some content, and it already generates about one-third of all reports to the team that reviews content for our community.
Now, Zuckerberg focuses on how communities can become more informed and civically engaged with the outside world i.e other community members. This move from Zuckerberg comes on the heels of the recent battering that Facebook has received for surfacing misleading and false news pieces. The company has been shamed for allegedly aiding the victory of Donald Trump, the idea of which has been called crazy by the founder himself.
He has since reiterated that his company is not a focused technology giant and everyone hold responsibility for the spread of such false stories. The company is now building tools, signing partnerships, and taking other measures to curb the spread of misinformation. It is even asking help from communities to help combat the issue by marking false stories and formation of polarized user bases. This has been described in the latter as under:
Polarization exists in all areas of discourse, not just social media. It occurs in all groups and communities, including companies, classrooms, and juries, and it’s usually unrelated to politics. The harm is that sensationalism moves people away from balanced nuanced opinions towards polarized extremes.
If this continues and we lose common understanding, then even if we eliminated all misinformation, people would just emphasize different sets of facts to fit their polarized opinions. That’s why I’m so worried about sensationalism in media.
Zuckerberg leads to the conclusion of the company’s new mission statement by saying that “this is an important time in the development of our global community.” He further adds that we need the spread of thoughts that have the most positive impact on individuals and brings them together to not only converse online but also support each other. And how could he not end the note by saying the infamous “make the world more open and connected” hook while thanking the community for their continued efforts. He adds,
I hope we have the focus to take the long view and build the new social infrastructure to create the world we want for generations to come.