Mark Zuckerberg's Personal 2019 Challenge: Talk More About Tech's Problems

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01/08/2019 | 10:25 pm
Mark Zuckerberg

By Yoree Koh

Mark Zuckerberg last year boldly announced his personal challenge was to fix Facebook. This year the Facebook CEO and founder is setting a more modest goal.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Mr. Zuckerberg said this year he plans to host a series of public discussions on the role of technology in society.

In an era of growing anxiety about such topics, Mr. Zuckerberg said he wants to debate some of them out loud. Many of them touch on issues that Facebook itself is grappling with, including artificial intelligence and the job market, the role of information gatekeepers, and how the internet can strengthen society.

This year's resolution follows a string of other annual goals from Mr. Zuckerberg that have included building an artificial-intelligence system for his home, running 365 miles, visiting every U.S. state and learning Mandarin.

Mr. Zuckerberg's pledge to fix Facebook last year was followed by a bruising stretch in which the social network endured a series of privacy missteps: he was called to Washington, D.C., to testify before lawmakers and the company's share price dropped sharply.

He has said the effort to fix the company is more than a one-year challenge.

Mr. Zuckerberg's 2019 goal is on the surface less ambitious than last year's, but he has historically been reluctant to speak at length on these topics even as Facebook has become engulfed in scandals related to data privacy and the spread of misinformation. An engineer by nature, Mr. Zuckerberg said in his blog post that it will his test his ability to speak publicly about some of these confounding problems.

"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 trade-offs we face, and where we want to go," he wrote.

In a New Yorker story last September, Mr. Zuckerberg spoke about his hesitation to speaking more openly. "I'm not the most polished person, and I will say something wrong, and you see the cost of that," he said. "I don't want to inflict that pain, or do something that's going to not reflect well on the people around me."

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