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Mark Zuckerberg Gives Facebook A New Mission

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When Facebook filed to go public in early 2012, Mark Zuckerberg noted that the social network wasn’t originally designed to be a company. “It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected,” Zuckerberg wrote in Facebook’s S-1 filing, presenting the business as an engine supporting this goal.

Now, five years later, the social network’s CEO still believes Facebook’s primary purpose is a social one, but he’s ready to update this mission for the first time. At at time when Facebook has come under scrutiny for not adequately curbing the spread of false news and extremist activity on the social network, Zuckerberg is committing to making the world closer. On stage on Thursday at Facebook’s first Community Summit, a gathering in Chicago of leaders from 120 different Facebook Groups, Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook’s updated purpose: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Facebook’s new mission, Zuckerberg said in an interview at the company’s Menlo Park, California headquarters last week, doesn’t mean that the company is shifting away from connecting friends and family, but rather, that it’s broadening its focus to enabling people to connect with meaningful communities, too. Why do these communities matter, Zuckerberg’s case goes? They help users find common ground, which helps people engage with new perspectives and become aware of different issues. Groups also offer individuals personal support, which gives them bandwidth to look outward and address the biggest human problems, like climate change and global health issues. Being exposed to common information and ideas isn’t enough to bring individuals together, the thesis continues – they need to identify with people who seem different from themselves to adopt new perspectives.

“For 10 years, we focused on doing everything around connecting people with their friends and family,” Zuckerberg said. “Now I think that there is a whole lot of similar work to be done around communities: Meeting new people, getting exposed to new perspectives, making it so that the communities that you join online can translate to the physical world, too.”

Zuckerberg described the new mission as an extension of Facebook’s original mantra, as opposed to an entirely new direction, and a focus that will guide the company over the next decade. The new mission is intended to reflect that Facebook’s responsibility has “expanded,” Zuckerberg said.

“We’ve been thinking about what our responsibility is in the world,” Zuckerberg said in an interview. “Connecting friends and family has been pretty positive, but I think there is just this collective feeling that we have a responsibility to do more than that and also help build communities and help people get exposed to new perspectives and meet new people – not just give people a voice, but also help build common ground so people can actually move forward together.”

A Decline In Community

The new mission was inspired by a shift that Zuckerberg said has become more pronounced over the past few years. When Facebook started, the idea of connecting the world wasn’t controversial. But increasingly, some movements in the world work against globalization, whether the exchange of policies, goods or ideas, and prevent the globe from coming together. Simultaneously, Zuckerberg noted, participation in communities has been declining around the world, in some places by as much as one quarter.

The decline in community activity is concerning, Zuckerberg noted, because while people can get personal and economic support from families and governments, people’s needs have historically also been filled by participating in other networks, revolving around everything from religion to sports, neighborhoods, health or shared values. Zuckerberg said the importance of community groups and leaders, like pastors and local advocates, and the impact of declining community membership, has been visible to him on his “50 states tour,”  which will ensure he meets people in every U.S. state to better understand how social networks affect their lives.

“I’ll go talk to people in a church, and a pastor will say, ‘I know that when a factory closes down in town, I’ll be doing marriage counseling with a lot of people in a month’,” Zuckerberg said. “Someone needs to do that, but that’s happening less and less. People’s support structures are going away.”

Common Ground

One of the primary benefits of being part of “meaningful groups,” Zuckerberg said, is the potential for that network to help members from a range of backgrounds and perspectives connect over shared values. Access to information alone isn’t a cure-all to helping people care about a broader set of global issues, Zuckerberg said. People often hone their perspective and become interested in new causes as a result of personal relationships.

Research suggests, Zuckerberg said, that in order for people to productively debate an issue, they need to first find recognize their common interests or beliefs. As the world’s largest social network with nearly 2 billion users, Facebook could have an unprecedented opportunity to promote these connections.

“People share more information, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that understanding is shared – that doesn’t mean the perspectives people have are getting closer together,” Zuckerberg said last week. “We can help you connect over things that you share before exposing you to debates that are really important to have productively.”

Community Tools

Currently, 1 billion Facebook users are part of groups, but only about 100 million are part of groups they would describe as meaningful, Zuckerberg said. For many, these groups can range from support networks for people experiencing or recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, like Affected by Addiction Support Group, to religiously-focused groups like Original Free Will Baptist Church group, run by a minister in Decatur, Georgia, who uses the app to chat with congregation members and share live videos of sermons to allow people to watch from their homes. Zuckerberg said Facebook has set a new goal to help 1 billion people join meaningful groups.

“A billion is a pretty important number in that, if we can do that, that will essentially reverse the whole decline in community membership around the world and start regrowing it to a point where it will have positive social effects,” Zuckerberg said.

Moving forward, a major new area of emphasis in Facebook’s product roadmap is building features that encourage users to find and join more groups that will be meaningful to them, as well as to make it easier for community leaders and Group admins to run groups and create new ones. It isn’t unusual for admins of large groups to spend several hours per day managing tasks like vetting requests from users to join, approving posts or addressing flagged content.

Facebook debuted a suite of new tools for Group admins on Thursday, including a new panel of real-time metrics called “Group insights”; a membership request filtering tool, which allows admins to organize requests through categories like gender and location; a “Removed member clean-up” tool, which makes it easier for admins to make groups safe by automatically deleting former users’ content; a post-scheduling tool to save admins and moderators time; and “Group-to-group-linking,” which allows admins to recommend similar or related groups to their members, aimed at helping sub-communities interact.

“The admins themselves are so critical because each group needs someone who’s going to look out for people,” said Zuckerberg, who noted that Facebook plans to continue rolling out additional tools to support admins over time. Facebook has also adjusted its algorithm to suggest Groups to people based on how meaningful the user will find the Group, as opposed to how likely that user is to join a particular Group.

As Facebook’s user base and the size and number of Groups continues to grow, Zuckerberg acknowledged that the company will need to continue improving its tools and policies for addressing bad actors and harmful activity. Addressing issues around harassment, discrimination and issues like recruiting by terrorist groups, requires a combination of human policies and moderating as well as artificial intelligence.

“There are boundaries,” Zuckerberg said. “Hate speech is certainly not allowed, terrorism is absolutely not allowed.”

Tackling Global Problems

Zuckerberg’s focus on community building ties back to the nearly 6,000-word manifesto he shared earlier this year, which pitches Facebook as digital social infrastructure that can be leveraged for good. Although the company’s new mission emphasizes community, Zuckerberg seems to view the individual as the immediate, critical unit for change at scale. Communities are important, Zuckerberg said, in large part because they help give people more bandwidth to look beyond their immediate surroundings and concerns.

“A more connected world is going to be necessary to take on the greatest opportunities and challenges for the next generation, everything from stopping climate change, to stopping pandemics, to funding research,” Zuckerberg said in an interview. “These are not fundamentally national problems anymore. In order to get there, you need to build a world where every person has a sense of support and purpose in their life so they don’t just focus narrowly on what’s going on in their lives, but can think about these broader issues as well.” – Written by Kathleen Chaykowski , FORBES STAFF

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Apple Is Donating 9 Million Masks To Combat The Coronavirus

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Topline: Apple will donate 9 million N95 protective masks to combat the coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday, making Apple one of several California tech companies pitching in as hospitals across the country report a shortage of protective gear.

  • Pence thanked Apple for agreeing to donate 9 million N95 respirator masks to healthcare facilities across the country during a press briefing on Tuesday.
  • Pence’s remarks come after Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted over the weekend the company was “working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19” and “donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe,” but did not offer more specifics.
  • N95 respirators are masks that form a protective seal around a wearer’s mouth, filtering  out at least 95% of particles in the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which makes them necessary to protect healthcare workers from being exposed to the disease from patients.
  • Facebook has also said it is donating its stockpile of 720,000 masks purchased during the California wildfires last year, which degraded the air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes asking if all of the donated masks were stockpiled because of the wildfires or if the company got them from somewhere else.

Chief critic: Teddy Schleifer, a reporter at Recode, wrote that health systems shouldn’t rely on the generosity of big tech companies to make up for the failures of the federal government. 

“But there is a risk in relying on corporate philanthropy—rather than the government—in solving this problem. For starters, it depends on the voluntary generosity of these companies to deal with an unprecedented emergency, an altruism that could vanish at any time,” he wrote.

Crucial quote: “And I spoke today, and the president spoke last week, with Tim Cook of Apple. And at this moment in time Apple went to their store houses and is donating 9 million N95 masks to healthcare facilities all across the country and to the national stockpile,” Pence said.

Key background: Apple is one of several California tech companies to give away N95 masks. In addition to Facebook, Salesforce, Tesla and IBM have also announced mask donations.

News peg: Doctors and nurses are sounding the alarm that they don’t have enough masks to protect healthcare workers. Not only does inadequate protective gear put important frontline health workers at risk, public health experts say, any situation endangering medical personnel may only further depletes the U.S. health system which already doesn’t have enough capacity to handle a surge in cases. State officials in New York and Illinois have criticized President Donald Trump for not stepping in to force companies to manufacture masks or allocate masks from private companies to ensure that states don’t outbid each other for the same supplies.

Rachel Sandler, Forbes Staff, Breaking News

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Video Games Are Being Played At Record Levels As The Coronavirus Keeps People Indoors

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Topline: With school closures, mandatory work-from-home policies and lockdowns taking place in the U.S. as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, gaming has seen higher engagement, especially over this past weekend.

  • Steam, the most popular digital PC gaming marketplace, reached new heights Sunday, drawing a record 20,313,451 concurrent users to the 16-year-old service, according to third-party database SteamDB.
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, released by Steam-owner Valve in 2012, seems to be the top beneficiary of the increased engagement, breaking it’s all-time peak on Sunday with 1,023,2290 concurrent players, topping its previous peak last month by a million, which itself beat the record set in April 2016.
  • Like other esports, CS:GO has had to cancel events due to the virus, particularly the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice earlier this month, though its peak viewership reached over a million, making it one of the most watched tournaments in the esports’ history.
  • Activision Blizzard’s new free-to-play battle royale spinoff Call of Duty: Warzone, launched March 10 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is also likely benefiting, drawing in a staggering 15 million in three days, besting the record 10 million in three days by last year’s battle royale sensation Apex Legends.
  • These new heights follows similar effects of the virus on China and Italy: Telecom Italia’s CEO told Bloomberg it saw a 70% increase in traffic over its landline network, with Fortnite playing a significant part, while Chinese live-streaming service Douyu experienced increased viewership of the country’s most popular games, according to market analyst Niko Partners.
  • While gaming was considered “recession proof” during the 2008 market crash, stocks aren’t immune to the current historic drops: software developers like Activision Blizzard are facing a 9% decrease in price year-to-date, while hardware companies that rely on Chinese manufacturing like Nintendo are seeing bigger drops of 24%.

What To Watch For: If these records keep rising as the closings and lockdowns continue. Arriving this week is Nintendo’s long-awaited Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Switch console, a relaxing “life-simulator” that’s set to have a big day with many fans not-so-jokingly asking Nintendo to launch early.

Surprising Fact: Plague Inc., a game that tasks players in creating a virus that wipes out humanity, surged in popularity late January, becoming the top-paid game on the Chinese app store at one point, but the game has now been removed in China at the direction of the government.

Further Reading: So You’re Suddenly Working From Home And Want To Try Gaming? Here’s How To Get Started.

Matt Perez, Forbes Staff, Innovation


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Amazon Hoping To Hire 100,000 New Employees To Deal With Coronavirus Demand

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Topline: Amazon announced Monday that it would be opening 100,000 new full-time and part-time positions to deal with increased buying demand as people practice social distancing during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

  • The company will also increase pay by $2 in the U.S. from its current $15 an hour, £2 in the UK and €2 in Europe for those working in fulfillment centers, transportation services, stores or people making deliveries, amounting to a total of $350 million.
  • Amazon last Friday shared that the increase in online commerce has unsurprisingly resulted in shortages for household essentials and delays in shipment times.
  • Monday’s statement also noted that “We continue to consult with medical and health experts, and take all recommended precautions in our buildings and stores to keep people healthy. We’ve taken measures to promote social distancing in the workplace and taken on enhanced and frequent cleaning, to name just a few.”
  • Last week, Amazon told all of its employees to consider working from home if they could, according to CNBC; for its fulfillment centers and delivery services, it also launched a $25 million relief fund that lets workers diagnosed with the coronavirus apply for  grants equal to two weeks pay, as well as unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees until the end of March.
  • Amazon currently employs 250,000 people at 110 fulfillment centers.

News Peg: According to Johns Hopkins, 181,200 people have been infected with the coronavirus, with 7,115 deaths reported. School closures, lockdowns and curfews have been put in place to promote social distancing, with the White House today recommending to avoid groups of more than 10 people.

Matt Perez, Forbes Staff, Games

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