Education & Training
On The Scholarly Kitchen: "Published back in February, Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto, Building Global Community, may not have made it to the top of your reading pile. Perhaps, like me, you initially categorized it as a marketing ploy, the action of a CEO trying to fend off criticism of his company. Many have faulted Facebook for its failure to ensure an informed and civil discourse for its users during a hotly contested political cycle, domestically and abroad."
In his posting to Facebook, Zuckerberg focused on the idea that the network represents more than a piece of technological infrastructure. Rather, it is a key piece of social infrastructure, useful in connecting those with varying interests and concerns (children, medical conditions, cultural heritage, etc.). Zuckerberg outlines the requirements for creating and fostering community in an online environment. To serve Facebook’s nearly two billion monthly users successfully, the community must be inclusive, supportive, safe, civically engaged, and informed.
In Zuckerberg’s eyes, Facebook’s role as a significant information and communication technology (ICT) is still evolving, and his manifesto speaks of the ways in which Facebook must improve if it is to justify its place in modern society. Facebook is a business that must remain commercially viable, but the business wields an outsize social influence that has the potential of bringing down governments and leaving chaos in its wake. The social-networking platform has responsibilities to shoulder, and Zuckerberg seeks to show that he is not unaware of that.
The 32-year-old Facebook founder expresses big dreams — “…spreading prosperity and freedom, promoting peace and understanding, lifting people out of poverty and accelerating science.” With regard to that last ambition, the philanthropic Chan Zuckerberg Initiative acquired Meta, with the stated intent of making the “AI-powered research search engine…free to all in a few months after enhancing the product.” A need to broadly share substantive information in pursuing prosperity and peace is thereby recognized.
Zuckerberg’s manifesto references the problem of “fake news,” the inaccurate information that individual (and corporate) entities may disseminate via Facebook, specifically noting a fear of the effects felt from sensationalism and polarization — two forces that counteract positive intentions in building community. Early in March, Facebook began to tag news stories as “disputed,” but unless Facebook’s body of algorithms as well as some percentage of individual users question a published item as dubious, material goes unchallenged. And as Ben Thompson of Stratechery has noted, there are dangers in relying upon this decade’s preeminent social networking platform to determine what is and is not reliable information. [...]
Jill O'Neill, @JILLMWO, is the Educational Programs Manager for NISO, the National Information Standards Organization. Over the past twenty-five years, she has held positions with commercial publishing firms Elsevier, ThomsonReuters and John Wiley & Sons followed by more than a decade of serving as Director of Planning & Communication for the National Federation of Advanced Information Services (NFAIS). Outside of working hours, she manages one spouse and two book discussions groups for her local library.