Zuckerberg hits the road to get a feel for an America divided by globalisation and technology
San Francisco — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is embarking on a tour of the US following Donald Trump’s election as president, in an attempt to understand how the country has been divided by the impact of globalisation and technology.
The CEO of the world’s largest social network has made it a personal challenge to have visited people in every state in the US by the end of the year, to discover how they are living, working and thinking about the future.
In a post on Facebook, Zuckerberg said that after a "tumultuous last year", it seems that "we are at a turning point in history". He called on his readers to work to "find a way to change the game so it works for everyone".
"For decades, technology and globalisation have made us more productive and connected," he said. "This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people it has also made life more challenging. This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime."
Facebook came under fire during the US election for doing too little to stop the spread of fake news stories, such as a report that the Pope had endorsed Trump, which gained a much larger audience than real publications on the platform. It was also criticised for creating filter bubbles, where users only see posts that reflect their own opinions.
Silicon Valley has been shaken by the election of Trump, with many liberal technology leaders uncomfortable with his rhetoric. But in a meeting, the president-elect told CEOs from leading technology companies that he wanted to support their innovation. Peter Thiel, a Facebook board member, is on Trump’s transition team, and Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX, and Travis Kalanick of Uber, have signed on as advisers.
Zuckerberg has not declared his political allegiance but last April he made a speech criticising people who want to build walls, rather than tear them down, in what was read as a reference to Trump’s plan for a border wall with Mexico.
Zuckerberg will make a series of visits during the year including road trips with his wife and fellow philanthropist Priscilla Chan. They will stop in small towns and at universities, visit Facebook offices across the country and go to places recommended by followers.
Having spent a significant time in many states already, he estimates he will need to travel to about 30 more states this year. "Recently, I’ve travelled around the world and visited many cities, and now I’m excited to explore more of our country and meet more people here," he said.
The US tour is the latest in Zuckerberg’s yearly challenges, which he posts about online.
Last year, he ran 365 miles and built a smart home system with artificial intelligence.
In 2015, he ran his own Facebook book club, where readers read a book every fortnight with him. He has also learnt Mandarin.
© The Financial Times Limited