The CEO of the world’s largest social network, with more than 1.8 billion monthly users, posted a 5,734-word mission statement Thursday in which he said the next focus for the company will be to develop the “social infrastructure” for a connected, global community.
According to Zuckerberg’s treatise, Facebook can — and should — help address such pressing issues as ending terrorism, fighting climate change, and preventing pandemics, as well as combating the spread of fake news and hate speech.
“For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families,” he wrote. “In times like these, the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.”
The 32-year-old billionaire’s post is the first overarching update on Facebook’s mission since 2012, at the time of the company’s initial public offering. In that statement five years ago, he focused on interpersonal relations but conveyed the similarly lofty goal to make “the world more open and connected, and not just to build a company.”
But what does Facebook’s bigger vision mean on a practical level? According to Zuckerberg, it means that Facebook will focus on tools “to amplify the good effects and mitigate the bad.”
Facebook will concentrate on building products in five areas: The company wants to help communities become more supportive, safe, informed, civically engaged and inclusive, Zuckerberg wrote.
Technologies like artificial intelligence will need more investment in order to be useful to Facebook’s communities, he wrote. “It’s worth noting that major advances in AI are required to understand text, photos and videos to judge whether they contain hate speech, graphic violence, sexually explicit content, and more,” Zuckerberg said, adding that the company hopes to “begin handling some of these cases in 2017, but others will not be possible for many years.”
Zuckerberg discussed what Facebook is doing now — and could do in the future — in each of the five categories:
- Supportive communities: More than 1 billion Facebook users are active members of groups, and of those more than 100 million are part of what it considers “very meaningful” groups, he wrote: “Our goal is to strengthen existing communities by helping us come together online as well as offline, as well as enabling us to form completely new communities, transcending physical location.”
- Safe community: Facebook provides products today like Safety Check and Community Help, but going forward Facebook can build artificial intelligence to understand “more quickly and accurately what is happening across our community,” Zuckerberg said, such as being able to identify risks related to mental health, disease or crime.
- Informed community: While Facebook has taken steps to fight fake news, the CEO said it needs to do more to support news organizations “to make sure this vital social function is sustainable.” In addition, the social network may be “uniquely suited” to be able to expose people to a greater diversity of viewpoints so that people get to know each other as “whole people, not just opinions,” he wrote.
- Civically engaged community: The company offers tools for people to register to vote — Facebook helped more than 2 million users in the U.S. register to vote, according to Zuckerberg. Beyond that, he wrote, the company will work to help establish “a new process for citizens worldwide to participate in collective decision-making.”
- Inclusive community: Facebook’s guiding philosophy for its Community Standards governing what is acceptable content and behavior on the service will be “to try to reflect the cultural norms of our community,” Zuckerberg wrote. “When in doubt, we always favor giving people the power to share more.”