“Making the world more open and connected” had one fundamental flaw: it didn’t push for any specific positive outcome from more connection. Technically, it could encompass digital voyeurism via the News Feed, trading in-person friendship for online acquaintanceship, or the filter bubbles and echospheres that have further polarized the United States.
So today, as Facebook approaches 2 billion monthly users, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed a new mission statement, to “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
Zuckerberg announced the change today at the Facebook Communities Summit for top Group admins where it announced new Group management tools. “For the last decade or so we’ve been focusing on making the world more open and connected. But I used to think that if we just give people a voice and help some people connect that that would make the world a whole lot better by itself” Zuckerberg admits. “Look around and our society is still so divided. We have a responsibility to do more, not just to connect the world but to bring the world closer together.”
Rather than have the new mission be just a philosophy, Zuckerberg says Facebook is turning it into a goal. “We want to help 1 billion people join meaningful communities. If we can do this it will not only reverse the whole decline in community membership we’ve seen around the world…but it will also strengthen our social fabric and bring the world closer together.” Right now Facebook considers there to be only 100 million meaningful group members.
The evolution of Facebook’s mission statement is a milestone in its transformation. Catalyzed by the fake news scandals surrounding the US presidential election, Zuckerberg first laid the groundwork with his 6,000-word community letter on “Building Community”, which focused on what Facebook could do to help. Then in his Harvard commencement speech, he outlined how individuals could help “to create a world where every single person has a sense of purpose.”
Now Zuckerberg has codified those intentions into Facebook’s charter.
“We’re getting to a size where its worth really taking a careful look at what are all the things that we can do to make social media the greatest force for good possible” Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox told me in an interview at Facebook’s sprawling headquarters.
The real test will be the follow-through, and where Facebook is willing to prioritize its mission over its business. That could mean alienating some of its more intolerant users, making changes that decrease the number of ads people see, or improving privacy and user control in ways that could reduce the stream of monetizable data Facebook receives.
Facebook may only be able to accomplish its mission by embracing that it’s not always the answer.
You can watch the ongoing keynote at the Communities Summit below: