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Mark Zuckerberg drops lawsuits over Hawaiian land

The Facebook CEO says it was a mistake to take legal action against locals who own plots of land within his beachfront property on Kauai.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg: "Now that I understand the issues better, it's clear we made a mistake."

James Martin/CNET

Mark Zuckerberg is trying to smooth things over in Hawaii.

The Facebook CEO said Friday that he's dropping a series of lawsuits that aimed to force hundreds of Hawaiians who own small plots within his 700-acre beachfront property on Kauai to sell him their land.

In 2014, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, purchased the land on Kauai's North Shore for a reported $100 million, with the intention of creating a secluded sanctuary for their family. But plots within that estate are already owned by families who have ancestral property rights to the land.

Last week, Zuckerberg drew major criticism after news first surfaced about the lawsuits, called "quiet title actions" and filed in December. Zuckerberg initially defended the suits, saying the reaction was due to a misunderstanding. He said the intent of the suits was to identify the people so he could pay them -- without evicting them from the land.

Earlier this week, Zuckerberg said he was "reconsidering" the lawsuits. On Friday, he dropped them altogether.

"To find a better path forward, we are dropping our quiet title actions and will work together with the community on a new approach," Zuckerberg wrote in The Garden Island, a local newspaper. "We want to make this right, talk with the community, and find a better approach."

A spokeswoman for Zuckerberg confirmed he wrote the letter.

Zuckerberg said he and Chan had spoken to several local leaders and organizations over the past week to determine the best way forward. He also called the suits a mistake.

"Upon reflection, I regret that I did not take the time to fully understand the quiet title process and its history before we moved ahead," Zuckerberg wrote. "Now that I understand the issues better, it's clear we made a mistake."

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