Zuckerberg’s Pivot Message: Facebook ‘Will Keep Building’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg struck a defiant tone during his opening keynote for the company’s f8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, assuring developers that the company wasn’t slowing down. “We will keep building,” he announced to applause from the audience.

Zuckerberg did spend a significant amount of time talking about Facebook’s recent problems, highlighting the work that the company has been doing to combat fake news, election interference, and privacy intrusions.

“This has been an intense year,” Zuckerberg quipped. “I can’t believe we are only four months in.”

Facebook’s chief executive once again mentioned that the company was in the process of hiring 20,000 people to shore up security, something the company had previously committed to. He promised that Facebook was making “good promise” on fighting fake news, but also admitted that some of these problems could never really be solved.

“We will make mistakes, and they will have consequences, and we will need to fix them,” he said. “Security isn’t a problem that you ever fully solve.”

Zuckerberg also had one privacy-related news bit to share: The company is going to build new privacy tools that will allow its users to see which third-party apps and websites are gaining access to their information. Users will also be able to delete any such information, and opt out of future information sharing, something that Zuckerberg likened to the ability to delete cookies with a web browser. The information in question includes analytics data that Facebook shares with publishers, as well as data transmitted as part of its ad network.

Zuckerberg a minute to acknowledge the departure of Whatsapp co-founder Jan Koum, saying that he had been “a tireless advocate for privacy and encryption.” Facebook wouldn’t have built what essentially became the largest end-to-end encrypted messaging network with Whatsapp if it hadn’t been for Koum, Zuckerberg said. Koum had announced his departure from the company Monday, and a report in the Washington Post had pointed to disagreements over encryption as well as ways to monetize Whatsapp.

Zuckerberg spent some 16 minutes talking about the company’s recent crisis before moving on to a large number of product updates for Facebook services like Instagram, Messenger and Facebook itself. The announcements also included the launch of the Oculus Go VR headset.

This year’s keynote lacked the far-out technology optimism that Zuckerberg displayed in previous years.  But the presentation was clearly designed as a way to turn a page for the company, with Zuckerberg even making light of some of the company’s recent troubles by jokingly using his recent Congressional testimony as a use case for the company’s Watch Party feature. “Let’s say your friend is testifying in Congress. You can laugh together, you can cry together,” he joked, adding: “Let’s not do this again soon.”

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