'Resign from Facebook': experts offer Mark Zuckerberg advice for 2019

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’Resign from Facebook’: experts offer Mark Zuckerberg advice for 2019

The CEO sets himself a personal challenge every new year. But after a bruising 12 months, what should he do next?

Zuckerberg should ‘resign and find a pursuit that will teach him humility and help him find his moral compass’, suggested one person.




Mark Zuckerberg should ‘resign and find a pursuit that will teach him humility and help him find his moral compass’, suggested one person.
Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

When Mark Zuckerberg began his annual “personal challenges” in 2009, he set the bar pretty low: he dressed like an adult every day for a year. Subsequent challenges were squarely in the realm of achievable New Year’s resolutions, from reading a book every two weeks and running a mile a day to starting to learn Mandarin and sending thank you notes.

But as Zuckerberg has transitioned his public image from the kid cosplaying as a business executive to the no-longer-quite-a-kid cosplaying as a statesman, his personal challenges have become something of a bellwether for how he is thinking about Facebook’s future. In 2016, when it seemed that Facebook’s challenges were still largely technological, he set out to build his own smart home system. In 2017, when political polarization was still being chalked up to filter bubbles, he embarked on a road trip around the US. And in 2018, when fake news and foreign interference were dominating headlines, he promised to buckle down and “focus on fixing” all of the various “issues” that had left the one-time prodigy looking more and more like a pariah.

Twelve months later, it seems that for the first time, Zuckerberg has failed to meet his goal. Not only has he not fixed Facebook, the list of problems with the social network has grown so long that it’s getting harder to find people who think the company is even fixable.

So this year, we asked a number of writers, technologists, politicians, activists and comedians to answer two questions:

  • What do you predict Mark Zuckerberg’s 2019 personal challenge will be?

  • What do you think Mark Zuckerberg’s 2019 personal challenge should be?

Here’s what they said …

Ellen Pao, CEO and co-founder of Project Include

Will be: Spend time with people he wants to connect with, perhaps employees or maybe his family.

Should be: Hire more people of color at the executive level, reporting directly to him. Bring more people of color, especially women of color, on to the Facebook board … Learn about the history of harassment on the internet over the past decade and a half from people targeted, from Pizzagate to Gamergate – and pay them for their time. Meet with the people in Myanmar and in India who have been victims of harassment from Facebook and WhatsApp.

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party

Will be: Continue to evade parliamentary scrutiny and personal responsibility for Facebook’s problems.

Should be: Have a productive life having resigned from the company he founded to leave a new leadership team to clean up his mess.

A protest ahead of Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress in April.


A protest ahead of Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress in April. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Anand Giridharadas, author of Winner Takes All

Will be: Some trivial act of personal development that gives him an aura of moral growth without actually reforming the troubled mind and soul of his that helped put a demagogue in charge of America.

Should be: Resigning from Facebook – and bringing Sheryl Sandberg with him, so she can spend all her time convincing women that patriarchy is really just a posture problem. Then he should reorient his charitable foundation. It should stop trying to end all disease and refocus on healing the plague that Facebook has become. It should stop trying to transform education and refocus on educating billionaire techies with huge power but limited moral imaginations.

Jessica Powell, author and former Google executive

Will be: A further commitment this year to improving the platform.

Should be: Mark would have an easier time tackling Facebook’s problems if he could better understand them on a human level – not as data points. Just as he set off two years ago to visit all 50 states, he should set out to visit 50 people who were personally affected by all the bullying, hate speech, ethnic cleansing and live-streamed suicides that have occurred on his platform.

Ro Khanna, congressman from Silicon Valley

Will be: Being more willing to admit error.

Should be: Building social media tools that will strengthen democracy.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of Anti-Social Media

Will be: Trying to learn yet another language in 2019. If he’s self-aware in any way he will choose to master Burmese so he can better understand the genocide his platforms amplify.

Rohingya refugees perform prayers on the anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar.


Rohingya refugees perform prayers on the anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a mass exodus of people from Myanmar. Photograph: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images

Should be: Understanding his own company. I could send him a substantial reading list of scholarship that assesses the influence of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in the world. Zuckerberg could take a three-month sabbatical to digest all that work. Better than that, Zuckerberg could take a two-year sabbatical from Facebook, enroll at the University of Virginia, and finish his bachelor’s degree under my direction. That would serve him – and his company and all its users – better than just about anything else he could do.

Matt Klinman, comedian

Will be: To finally leave Facebook: “It’s just not fun here any more, at first Facebook was about hanging out with my friends and sharing cool stuff. But now, most of my friends have quit and the ones that haven’t are, no offense, just the most narcissistic crazy ones addicted to the fake positive reinforcement they get. I think about all the people in my life who I actually respect and I’m like ‘I never see those people at Facebook any more.”

Should be: Spend the entire next year as one of those poor outsourced contractors who has to sit there for 10 hours a day looking at all the violent and pedophilic images people report. He should feel the trauma of being on the ground level of his giant editor-less libertarian media dystopia.

Jillian York, free expression director at Electronic Frontier Foundation

Will be: Something vague that won’t require any real accountability, like “do better”.

Should be: Speaking for myself? Find a new job.

Dennys Antonialli, executive director of InternetLab, Brazil

Should be: Take local contexts into account when shaping global policies to regulate content. This will require a more meaningful engagement with civil society around the world: understanding their issues and listening to their concerns is the only way to make Facebook a safer and better place. Zuckerberg should listen to an activist every day.

‘Resign from Facebook – and bring Sheryl Sandberg with him.’


‘Resign from Facebook – and bring Sheryl Sandberg with him.’ Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP

Rachel Coldicutt, CEO of doteveryone

Will be: Working out how artificial intelligence can safeguard democracy.

Should be: Breaking up Facebook into at least three smaller companies, while he steps away from the computer and focuses on learning something more low risk for the rest of humanity, like falconry maybe, or macramé.

Leslie Miley, former CTO of Obama Foundation

Will be: Work more closely with news organizations and public policy orgs to better understand the reach, scope and impact of Facebook’s machinations.

Should be: Resign and find a pursuit that will teach him humility and help him find his moral compass.

Daphne Keller, director at Stanford Center for Internet and Society

Will be: Something humble, modest, and quantifiable – like maybe “spend a day in the shoes of a frontline employee in every major team at Facebook”.

Should be: Commit to building better tools to empower users. There is no top-down fix Facebook could provide that would make all 2.2 billion-ish of us happy, so it’s time to put more meaningful choices – especially about content and privacy – in our hands.

‘Commit to building better tools to empower users.’


‘Commit to building better tools to empower users.’ Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Images

Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change

Should be: Aggressively addressing the systemic problems in his company … He desperately needs to begin implementing systemic solutions, in a way that is transparent, rebuilds the public trust and provides a safer platform for all people.

Nato Green, comedian

Will be: Pretending he has even a passing interest in how other people might feel.

Should be: Working in retail. Waiting tables at the Olive Garden – a place with rules about flare and scripted upselling.

Dia Kayyali, program manager at Witness

Will be: Some other, similarly broad, challenge that relates to making Facebook a force for good in the world.

Should be: Take personal responsibility for turning Facebook around as a company. That means publicly committing to creating an ethical and principled company that respects civil society, and ensuring that at every level Facebook makes decisions based on human rights instead of market forces. It means personally committing to a Facebook that doesn’t accidentally make decisions that aid violent regimes, white supremacists and other bad actors. Above all, it means simply being honest about Facebook’s largely detrimental role in global society. That would be the biggest challenge of all.

Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

The Guardian Tech RSS

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/01/mark-zuckerberg-new-years-resolutions-2019-expert-advice