When asked about his life’s work, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has traditionally fallen back on a somewhat nebulous answer: making “the world more open and connected.” It was an almost quaint euphemism for the company’s more capitalistic goals of vacuuming up the attention of billions of humans and selling boatloads of advertising. Yet even for Zuckerberg, who does earnestly believe in Facebook’s power to continue transforming the world and improving our lives, that mission statement no longer cuts it.
So the company is unveiling a new one: “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” It’s a culmination of months, perhaps years, of apparent soul-searching on Zuckerberg’s part and strategic directional changes for Facebook as a product. The social network has been moving in this direction for quite some time, away from a place of silly life updates and selfies and toward becoming the hub of modern community-building and digital discourse.
Yet it was last year’s contentious US election — and the scary but real possibility that Facebook had a hand in influencing its outcome — that forced the company’s hand and pushed Zuckerberg to rethink what happens next, after the world is more open and connected than ever before. Facebook could no longer ignore the proliferation of fake news stories; the presence of bad actors, both independent and state-sponsored; and the ramifications of a live video platform that could be used to broadcast suicide and murder.
In February, Zuckerberg acknowledged, in a more than 5,800-word manifesto, that his creation is no longer simply concerned with connecting friends and helping them share their thoughts, links, and photos. Facebook is now a monumentally influential force in the social fabric of modern life, Zuckerberg admitted, and that means the company’s next mission is to “develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us,” he wrote.
“We used to have a sense that if we could just do those things, then that would make a lot of the things in the world better by themselves,” Zuckerberg told CNN Tech in a rare sit-down interview to mark the company’s new mission statement. “But now we realize that we need to do more, too. It’s important to give people a voice, to get a diversity of opinions out there, but on top of that, you also need to do this work of building common ground so that way we can all move forward together.”
Facebook is now turning to its Groups feature as the next step in fostering positive community-building. The company said in a blog post today that Groups are used by more than 1 billion people around the world, which is slightly more than half of the social network’s 1.94 billion users. “An important part of delivering on our new mission is supporting group admins, who are real community leaders on Facebook,” writes Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook’s vice president of engineering.
Now, Facebook will give group admins more direct access to metrics like growth and engagement, and allow them to more easily and efficiently filter through membership requests, schedule posts, and remove trollish or abusive users and all posts and comments from those users with a single action. Facebook also highlighted its idea of a quintessential and productive group with some examples like Lady Bikers of California, for female motorcycle riders to meet up in person, and an addiction support group started to offer support to those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.