Mark Zuckerberg published a 5,732-word open-letter establishing Facebook’s role in the global community on February 17th. Within the following month, Facebook unveiled three new features improving safety and information accuracy within user communities.
Reflecting upon recent issues regarding fake news and 21st century cultural norms based on new media, Zuckerberg’s manifesto highlights Facebook’s key community values and future initiatives.
“For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families. With that foundation, our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for community – for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all” Zuckerberg proclaimed in his manifesto.
Since Facebook has remained the largest social networking site (SNS) after surpassing MySpace in 2008, the social networking giant possesses power and influence. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Facebook reached 1.86 billion monthly active users and continues to grow. With Facebook’s expansive global reach, Zuckerberg believes that it is Facebook’s job “to help people make the greatest positive impact while mitigating areas where technology and social media can contribute to divisiveness and isolation.”
According to Zuckerberg, successfully building a global community starts with building supportive and safe communities.
The manifesto’s section on safe community opens: “Our success isn’t just based on whether we can capture videos and share them with friends. It’s about whether we’re building a community that helps keep us safe – that prevents harm, helps during crises, and rebuilds afterwards.”
Facebook’s head of global safety, Antigone Davis, declares, “Facebook is in a unique position – through friendships on the site – to help connect a person in distress with people who can support them. It’s part of our ongoing effort to help build a safe community on and off Facebook.”
During the first week of March, Facebook unveiled its new AI-driven technology to prevent suicides by identifying users at high risk of self-harm and connecting them with appropriate support resources. The new feature’s algorithm detects patterns of risky behavior. Facebook will also integrate reporting tools to Facebook Live enabling users to report and reach out to users who appear to be at risk directly and in real time.
Facebook drives its safety-oriented mission with technology innovation, crowdsourced support from its users, and improved communication channels.
Facebook’s VP of Social Good, Naomi Gleit, points out, “we saw people using Facebook to tell friends and family they were OK after crises, so in 2014 we launched Safety Check” to facilitate crises communication.
In February, Facebook launched Community Help, a new update to Facebook’s safety check feature that improves crisis communication by enabling people to directly message one another and to view posts by category and location. Initially activated for human disasters during the 2015 Paris attacks, the feature will also be activated in the event of natural disasters.
Building upon the need for supportive and safe communities, Zuckerberg stresses the significance of sustaining informed and inclusive communities.
Zuckerberg's manifesto states, “The purpose of any community is to bring people together to do things we couldn’t do on our own…Facebook is not just technology or media, but a community of people. That means we need Community Standards that…reflect the cultural norms of our community, [limits our] exposure to objectionable content, [and maximizes our freedom of speech].”
For instance, a 2016 Pew Research report found that 66% of Facebook users have used the platform to receive news. This cultural shift towards using SNS as a news source indicates the increasing importance of Facebook’s assurance of newsworthy content and the accuracy of information. Zuckerberg admits that the diversity of viewpoints we see (filter bubbles) and accuracy of information (fake news) were two main issues of concern in 2016, especially with the presidential election.
Earlier this month, Facebook launched a new tool to combat fake news by collaborating with non-partisan fact-checkers. The ‘Disputed News’ tag will appear beneath news stories including misinformation. Facebook is also compiling a list of websites notorious for posting fake news.
As headlines in Facebook’s newsroom have focused on Facebook’s efforts to positively impact communities on individual and global levels, Facebook appears to support the values exhibited in Zuckerberg’s manifesto.
Facebook cares about its community of users. Whether its community can unite users will be an interesting story to follow, as Facebook’s global, community-oriented strategy could redefine the duties of SNS in a global scope.