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September 20, 2017

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Mark Zuckerberg lays out sweeping manifesto

NEW YORK -- Mark Zuckerberg's long-term vision for Facebook, laid out in a sweeping manifesto, sometimes sounds more like a utopian social guide than a business plan. Are we, he asks, "building the world we all want?"

While most people now use Facebook to connect with friends and family, Zuckerberg thinks that the social network can also encourage more civic engagement, from the local to the global level. Facebook now has nearly 2 billion members, which makes it larger than any nation in the world.

His 5,800-word essay positions Facebook in direct opposition to a rising tide of isolationism and fear of outsiders, both in the U.S. and abroad. In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Zuckerberg stressed that he wasn't motivated by the U.S. election or any other particular event. Rather, he said, it's the growing sentiment in many parts of the world that "connecting the world" — the founding idea behind Facebook — is no longer a good thing.

"Across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection," Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, wrote on Thursday. So it falls to the company to "develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us."

Connecting in Facebook's Interest

Zuckerberg, 32, told the AP that he still strongly believes that more connectedness is the right direction for the world. But, he added, it's "not enough if it's good for some people but it's doesn't work for other people. We really have to bring everyone along."

It's hardly a surprise that Zuckerberg wants to find ways to bring more people together, especially on Facebook. After all, getting more people to come together on the social network more frequently would give Facebook more opportunities to sell the ads that generate most of its revenue, which totaled US$27 billion last year. And bringing in more money probably would boost Facebook's stock price to make Zuckerberg — already worth an estimated US$56 billion — even richer.

And while the idea of unifying the world is laudable, some critics — backed by various studies — contend Facebook makes some people feel lonelier and more isolated as they scroll through the mostly ebullient posts and photos shared on the social network. Facebook's famous "like" button also makes it easy to engage in a form of "one-click" communication that can displace meaningful dialogue.

Facebook also has been lambasted as a polarizing force by circulating posts espousing similar viewpoints and interests among like-minded people, creating an "echo chamber" that can harden opinions and widen political and cultural chasms.

Community Support

Today, most of Facebook's 1.86 billion members — about 85 percent — live outside of the U.S. and Canada. The Menlo Park, California-based company has offices everywhere from Amsterdam to Jakarta, Indonesia, to Tel Aviv, Israel. (It is banned in China, the world's most populous country, though some people get around the ban.) Naturally, Zuckerberg takes a global view of Facebook and sees potential that goes beyond borders, cities and nations.

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