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Mark Zuckerberg's New Year's resolution: No more annual challenges

For the past decade, Facebook's CEO has pushed himself to run, to learn Mandarin and to code artificial intelligence software for his home.

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Mark Zuckerberg, giving a keynote sometime after his personal challenge to get better at public speaking.

James Martin

One could argue that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has enough challenges already. Which is likely why he announced Thursday he won't be renewing his annual "personal challenge" this year.

Zuckerberg's personal challenges, which came across as equal parts sincere New Year's resolutions and cynical PR ploys to make him seem more personable, have been an annual tradition for the 35-year-old Facebook co-founder for more than a decade. In the past, he's pushed himself to learn to hunt and cook, to read more books and to improve his public speaking.

"My goal was to grow in new ways outside my day-to-day work running Facebook," Zuckerberg wrote Thursday on -- where else? -- his Facebook profile. "Outside Facebook, I'm a father now and I love spending time with my family, working on our philanthropy, and improving at the sports and hobbies I've picked up over the years. So while I'm glad I did annual challenges over the last decade, it's time to do something different."

Zuckerberg said he also plans to focus his efforts on the larger issues he and his teams have been facing. Among them, he reiterated his plan to create a better form of governance for Facebook, including an independent oversight board people can appeal to when concerns about free expression and censorship come up. Think of it as an internet version of the Supreme Court. 

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"This decade, I hope to use my position to establish more community governance and more institutions like this," Zuckerberg wrote. "If this is successful, it could be a model for other online communities in the future."

Facebook didn't respond to a request to make Zuckerberg available for an interview.

The end to the annual personal challenges comes at a time when Zuckerberg's facing more scrutiny than ever. Facebook, the social networking company he helped build, attracts about 2.5 billion people to use it each month and also owns subsidiaries like the photo-sharing social network Instagram and the text message replacement service WhatsApp. It continues to struggle amid scandals over election interference, propaganda, data privacy and corporate malfeasance.

As a result, Facebook is being scrutinized by regulators and lawmakers around the world concerned about potential incidents like the Cambridge Analytica data leak of up to 87 million people's private Facebook information, Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election or Facebook's own "determining role" helping to fuel a crisis that led to genocide in Myanmar.

In his post Thursday, Zuckerberg acknowledged some of the criticism he and his company have faced, saying he's handling much more "social responsibility" than he did when he first set out on these personal challenges a decade ago.

"This decade I'm going to take a longer term focus," he wrote, noting his work on virtual reality, augmented reality, privacy and other issues. "Rather than having year-to-year challenges, I've tried to think about what I hope the world and my life will look in 2030 so I can make sure I'm focusing on those things."