Mark Zuckerberg


Born in 1984 in White Plains, New York

Citizenship: USA

Residence: Palo Alto, California

Net worth: currently $74.3 billion through his social network Facebook (now worth $500 billion)

Education: Harvard University (Psychology and Computer Science, dropped out)

Instagram: @zuck

Political compass: declared nor Democrat nor Republican but left-leaning ideology

In his own words:

“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, 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.” (CNN interview, June 2017.)

“The integrity of our elections is fundamental to democracy around the world. That’s why we’ve built teams dedicated to working on election integrity and preventing governments from interfering in the elections of other nations. And as we’ve shared before, our teams have found and shut down thousands of fake accounts that could be attempting to influence elections in many countries, including recently in the French elections. Now, I wish I could tell you we’re going to be able to stop all interference, but that wouldn’t be realistic. There will always be bad people in the world, and we can’t prevent all governments from all interference. But we can make it harder. We can make it a lot harder. And that’s what we’re going to do.” (Speech on Russian involvement in 2016 election, Facebook.)

“An important aspect of freedom of speech is that you need to be able to get pretty close to offensive,” said Zuckerberg. But bullying or anything that causes real world harm is off limits. Disagreeable content is allowed, “as long as it’s not hate speech or way over the line.” (CNN interview, June 2017.)

“I always say that I think you should start with the problem you’re trying to solve in  the world and not start with deciding that you want to build a company. The best companies that get built are things that are trying to drive some kind of social change, even if it’s just local in one place, more than just starting out because you want to make a bunch of money or have a lot of people working for you or build some company in some way. I always think this is kind of a perverse thing about Silicon Valley in a way, which is that people often decide that they want to build a company before they even decide what they want to do, and that just feels really backwards to me, and for anyone who’s had the experience of building a company, you know that you get through some really hard things along the way and I think that part of what gets you through that is believing in what you’re doing and knowing that what you’re doing is delivering a lot of value for people.” (“How to Build the Future” interview with The Macro in 2016)

“We will expand our partnerships with election commissions around the world. We already work with electoral commissions in many countries to help people register to vote and learn about the issues. We’ll keep doing that, and now we’re also going to establish a channel to inform election commissions of the online risks we’ve identified in their specific elections.” (on Russian interference in 2016 elections.)

Connections/Interactions (billionaires):

Yuri Milner, Russian entrepreneur, close friend and early Facebook investor

Sheril Sandberg, Facebook CEO

Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn founder and early Facebook investor

Mark Pincus, early Facebook investor

Dustin Moskovitz, cofounder of Facebook

Eduardo Saverin, cofounder of Facebook

Sean Parker, Facebook President

Peter Thiel, early Facebook investor 

Electioneering: 5

There have been many rumors and speculation of Mark Zuckerberg running for office in 2020 or 2024, which he has denied personally in a statement on Facebook. These rumors were sparked by several things: firstly, the fact that Mark Zuckerberg took some time off to tour the U.S to “talk to the folks”, accompanied by a former White House photographer and that he has now hired many former White House, Obama and Clinton staffers. Secondly, in his Harvard Commencement speech, Zuckerberg expressed political ideas more than words of encouragement for the new class, (modernizing democracy, personalizing education, fighting climate change, “curing all diseases” etc.) and thirdly, he has amended the S-1 corporation charter of Facebook, so that he could take leave from the company in order to hold office while still keeping his shares and voting power. 

Political interactions: 6/7

In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, Mark Zuckerberg got a lot of heat from both the public and the U.S government for having potentially interfered with the election. Indeed, Facebook sold ads to members of the Russian government that can be considered propaganda in favor of Donald Trump, and “allowed” Russian entities (now believed to be the Internet Research Agency based in St. Petersburg, Russia) to share fake news. The company has since been under official investigation, and Zuckerberg has said he is “actively working with the government” so as to solve this issue. 

Campaign financing: 9

Both Zuckerberg and Facebook’s Political Action Committee have donated tens of thousands of dollars to both Democrat and Republican candidates’ campaigns in the past, with Zuckerberg’s highest personal donation of $10,000 to the Democratic party in 2015. Zuckerberg did not contribute to the 2016 election campaigns, but has personally donated to multiple people: Sean Eldridge, Republican House candidate in 2013, Orrin G. Hatch, Republican U.S Senator for Utah in 2013, Marco Rubio, Republican U.S Senator for Florida, Paul D. Ryan, Republican Vice President nominee & member of the U.S House in 2014, Charles E. Schumer, Democratic U.S Senator of New York in 2013, and to Cory Booker, prominent member of the Democratic Party and U.S Senator in 2013. 

Through Facebook Inc. PAC, the company’s political action committee, Zuckerberg and others have also been able to raise large funds for political campaigns in the past: he has donated $20,000 himself to the PAC since 2011. The PAC raised nearly $350,000 in the 2012 elections, spent $277,675 on federal candidates, and is said to financially support Republican candidates more than Democrats ($144,000 vs. $125,000.) The PAC spent $517,000 in the 2016 election to support federal candidates. 

Lobbying/Advocacy: 10

In 2013, Zuckerberg created the lobbying group, supported mainly by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, which lobbies and advocates for grassroots activism, immigration reform, education reform and using technology in schools, and the facilitation of scientific breakthroughs. The group have created a front group called “Americans for a Conservative Direction” in 2013, which aired political ads from Republican politicians whose immigration policies were in line with that of, and Politico also reports that the group is planning to create another group called “Council for American Job Growth” aimed at people with more progressive political sensibilities. The group has received some backlash in the past but is still going strong in 2017. 

Opinion shaping: 6

Through his social network Facebook, Zuckerberg has the potential to greatly influence public opinion, by creating and using an algorithm that shows the user what it “thinks” they might like. Because most people are now using the platform as a news source, this can be problematic in terms of the general public opinion. Though we can’t know his intentions, or how much he is directly involved in the algorithm and opinion shaping through Facebook, there is definitely high potential there. Additionally, Zuckerberg has used his status as innovative tech lord to spread a message: globalizing technology and the Internet, “bringing the world closer together”, “connecting people”, but has also given advice on building a successful companies and more. Through his social network and his platform, Zuckerberg seems to be shaping public opinion into thinking that companies like Facebook are necessary but also very beneficial to global society and is all about bringing people together.

Media control: 7

As Facebook has grown, and its number of users with it, mass media publications have understood that they needed to be on Facebook if they wanted to keep their viewership up, as Facebook is now young people’s main source of news. However, not only does the algorithm control what news a user does or does not get on his newsfeed, news organizations now have to pay high sums of money to be featured on the platform’s newsfeed rather than the quite discreet “news” section which is being developed currently. Though Zuckerberg insists on Facebook being a tech company and not a media company, some argue that is has already become one, and a large one at that, as the platform is a new gatekeeper for news consumption, much like the paper or TV has been in the past. Facebook does not control the media content shared, but it does act as a gatekeeper for mass media. 

Public exposure: 5

Though he used to be quite private, Mark Zuckerberg has become more and more public in recent times, with the 2016 election controversy in which he had to step out and discuss matters publicly, but he has also been more vocal with his ideas, values and political views and has exposed himself to the public through his U.S tour following the 2016 election. 

Research funding: 10

Through the Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub, created at first as a joint effort between UC Berkeley, UC San Fransisco and Stanford University, now heavily funded Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan’s Initiative, Zuckerberg has funded scientific research on health and diseases. Its current two projects are the Cell Atlas Project and the Infectious Disease Initiative. Through these scientific research projects, Zuckerberg has said that he hopes to “cure all disease” by 2100 with his $3 billion donation. 

Philanthropy: 10

In 2015, Zuckerberg and his wife founded the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited liability company, meaning that it can be for-profit. The initiative describes its mission as “advancing human potential and promoting equal opportunity”, and it is through this initiative that Zuckerberg was able to donate to scientific research, but also invest in tech education programs such as Andela, in which they invested $24 million. In 2010, Zuckerberg made a $100 million donation to the Newark and New Jersey school system as backing for a reform, and then also went on to donate to schools in Silicon Valley. In 2014, the couple have also made hefty donations to the medical and health sector, including a $75 million donation to the San Fransisco General Hospital and $25 million to Ebola research. In 2015, Zuckerberg and Chan also signed the Giving Pledge, in which they pledged to give away 99% of their wealth to public interest causes. The couple have also been heavily investing in technology in order to achieve their philanthropic goals, by creating grants and investing in for-profit companies working to make social change through technology. Some argue that Zuckerberg and Chan are on their way to become the most influential philanthropists of the 21st century. 

Further reading:

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