NEW YORK (AFP) – Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg unveiled his personal goal for 2019 last Tuesday: Convening a series of public forums on how technology can better serve society.
“My challenge for 2019 is to host a series of public discussions about the future of technology in society – the opportunities, the challenges, the hopes and the anxieties,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook.
The announcement follows a difficult period for the social media company, which has come under fire for its handling of private consumer data and its brass-knuckles approach to company critics, among other issues.
Zuckerberg, without directly acknowledging the criticism, said he recognised the need to get out of his comfort zone.
“I’m an engineer, and I used to just build out my ideas and hope they’d mostly speak for themselves,” he wrote.
“But given the importance of what we do, that doesn’t cut it anymore. So I’m going to put myself out there more than I’ve been comfortable with and engage more in some of these debates about the future, the tradeoffs we face, and where we want to go.”
Zuckerberg plans a series of forums that will be broadcast on Facebook, Facebook-owned Instagram or other media.
Zuckerberg has made a practice of setting a personal goal each January, such as running 365 miles during the year, or visiting all 50 of the United States.
But Zuckerberg’s statement last Tuesday suggested he recognised there was still work to do on the 2018 goal of “fixing” problems at Facebook, such as safeguarding the site from misinformation and propaganda that many experts believe affected the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit vote in Britain.
“Last year, I focussed almost all my time on addressing important issues around elections, speech, privacy and well-being,” Zuckerberg wrote.
“Facebook is a different company now than it was a couple of years ago because of a much greater focus on these questions. These issues are complex and we will continue focussing on them for years to come.”