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Least realistic New Year’s resolution ever: Fix Facebook in 365 days

Zuck says The Social Network™ knows nothing about anything important

If the weekend’s excesses suggest that your New Year’s resolutions aren’t going to happen, spare a thought for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg because he’s given himself 365 days to fix The Social Network™.

Zuck always gives himself annual challenges that he shares with the world. In the past he’s learned Mandarin, run a lot and built a home AI.

This year he’s decided extra-curricular activities should take a back seat in favour of work on “protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.”

Zuck’s declaration said he’s chasing those goals because “we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we're successful this year then we'll end 2018 on a much better trajectory.”

But that “trajectory” has commercial outcomes in mind, as Zuckerberg’s post admitted that his hopes that technology would decentralize power have fallen by the wayside as “With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it.” Such worries have been fuelled by policies that insist images of breast-feeding must be censored, while hate speech and trolling flourish and advertisers hide job ads from middle-aged people or target known sympathisers of hateful causes, have seen regulators, advertisers and users alike become leery of Facebook.

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The founder’s spin on his ambition is that it’s not really work, because he’ll need to learn “history, civics, political philosophy, media, government, and of course technology” to get the job done. He therefore plans to consult experts to educate himself and the company about how to extricate itself from the swamps it built.

Ponder that for a moment: the CEO and founder of a company valued at over $500bn, and used by billions, has admitted he lacks the background knowledge, and his company lacks the expertise, to keep itself off the rocks.

Zuckerberg also wrote that encryption and cryptocurrency offer the chance for more decentralization, but said "they come with the risk of being harder to control."

"I'm interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services," he wrote, surely a nod to governments who want back doors into messaging services.

Zuckerberg didn’t mention some of Facebook’s own mis-steps, like its attempt to re-colonialise India or virtual empathy in the face of real suffering. Perhaps addressing those will be next year’s resolution. ®

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