Zuckerberg asks forgiveness, but Facebook needs change

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“For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better” Mark Zuckerberg posted to Facebook tonight on Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. Yet first Facebook must redeem itself by recognizing how its dewy-eyed trust in the world can be abused.

Zuckerberg has recently faced stern criticism from liberals over Facebook’s failure to block fake news and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, while simultaneously having Facebook called “anti-Trump” by the President himself.

Today’s statement was met with mixed reactions, with some pointing out that Zuckerberg had listed himself as an atheist until late 2016 when he reaffirmed the Jewish faith in which he’d been raised.

“Oh former atheist Mark Zuckerberg, suddenly so religious now that he’s aiming for the world’s presidency. To make it very clear: no problem in being an atheist whatsoever; the problem is to use religion as a political tool” Brazilian ad platform Boo Box co-founder Marco Gomes tweeted. Journalists from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal cautiously shared Zuckerberg’s post without comment.

Facebook has shown significant progress in thwarting interference in elections in Germany and France, deleting malicious accounts and working closely with election commissions. But as more information about the extent of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential race emerges, Zuckerberg has come under additional fire.

Source: Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency + David Ramos/Getty Images

Matters worsened when Zuckerberg responded to Trump tweet that “Facebook was always anti-Trump” by saying “Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like.”

That response derided critics as close-minded and washed over Facebook’s troubles as being inevitable while highlighting Facebook’s positive impacts on the election. It also cowed to Trump’s go-to tactic of bullying his opponents in hopes of receiving softer treatment. Zuckerberg was baited into positioning Facebook as neutral despite Russian election interference coming to the aide of Trump’s campaign.

By saying criticism comes from all-sides with Facebook in the middle instead of directly rebuking the President’s statement, Zuckerberg puts Facebook in a tenuous situation. If its internal investigation into election interference reports the Russians aided Trump, the President can merely dismiss it as the “anti-Trump” sentiment he warned about.

Having interviewed Zuckerberg numerous times over the last 7 years of reporting on Facebook, my belief is that he was earnest and genuine in his apology today. He seems legitimately concerned with the potential negative impact his platform has had in the past year.



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