Mark Zuckerberg dismayed by level of global social division

Despite openness, Facebook CEO says "the world is today more divided than I would have expected."

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
2 min read

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confronts the realities of openness on social networks.

James Martin/CNET

The connectivity Facebook provides its users hasn't panned out the way Mark Zuckerberg expected.

The CEO and co-founder of Facebook made that admission during an interview podcast published Wednesday with Freakonomics. Zuckerberg's comments come amid growing criticism of how Facebook, and tech companies in general, are having a divisive impact on the world's people.

"We've been focused on making the world more open and connected," Zuckerberg said during podcast. "And I always thought that that would be enough to solve a lot of problems by itself.

"But the world is today more divided than I would have expected for the level of openness and connection that we have today," Zuckerberg admitted.

The comments come amid a backdrop of criticism that Silicon Valley should be held accountable for influence Russia was able to wield using their respective platforms during the 2016 US presidential election.

Facebook has said about 126 million Americans, or roughly one-third of the nation's population, were exposed to Russian-backed content on Facebook during the election. It said in September it had identified about 500 "inauthentic accounts" that bought $100,000 worth of ads that sought to stoke divisiveness in the US by targeting highly politicized social issues such as immigration, guns and LGBT rights.

Zuckerberg said that technology amplifying both the good and bad of humanity has positive effects on society.

"There are good parts of people, and there are bad parts of people," he said, noting that openness can be challenging. "Confronting truths or perspectives that don't fit with ours, don't necessarily make our lives easier in the near term."

The interview is part of a six-part series called the "Secret Life of CEOs."

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