While he joked about his Congressional testimony and the never-ending privacy scandals of the last few months on the F8 stage, Mark Zuckerberg’s most important message was one he doubled down on throughout his keynote: Facebook is actually very good and not at all evil.
That may not seem particularly surprising, as the Facebook founder has spent the last several weeks on a whirlwind apology tour, where he’s repeated the same talking points over and over and over again.
“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility,” and “Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company.”
But in recent days he’s added an important new talking point: that Facebook also “has a responsibility to keep moving forward.” This has the advantage of not only giving him cover as Facebook plows full steam ahead on its product roadmap, but bolstering his carefully crafted image of a CEO who cares about the world.
This was on full display throughout Zuckerberg’s very political-sounding keynote (he may or may not have had some help from one of President Obama’s former speechwriters).
“Together is where our world gets better, that’s why we keep building. Because this journey is still unfinished,” he said. “Because our relationships are what matter most to us. That’s how we find meaning, and find our place in the world.
He used this logic to justify one of the day’s biggest curveballs: news that Facebook plans to launch a dating service in the not-so-distant future.
But what was most surprising about the announcement was not that it didn’t leak ahead of time, but that the company decided to unveil it now. The social network, which reportedly shelved plans to unveil a new smart speaker amid its many privacy scandals, didn’t consider the privacy implications of a brand-new dating service to be an issue.
Instead, Zuckerberg did his best to convince us that dating on Facebook is actually a really good idea.
“If we’re focused on helping people build meaningful relationships, then this is perhaps most meaningful of all,” he said, adding that it was designed “with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning.”
Again, file this under Facebook’s big “responsibility” to provide users with features they never asked for.
It’s a convenient argument for Zuck, who is eager to paint himself as a different kind of CEO — one who cares about the world and wants to help fix social problems. Never mind the fact that his company can barely contain the problems it’s already creating, like its role in inciting mass violence in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. (Also conveniently not mentioned: over in the UK, parliament sent the Facebook CEO an ultimatum, making it clear they’d compel him to appear if he refuses to do so voluntarily.)
But if those issues were weighing on him, you wouldn’t know it from his keynote. Though he spoke about Facebook’s efforts to safeguard elections and fight fake news, the CEO who coined the “move fast and break things” mantra, made it clear he has no plans to slow down.
“We’re going to keep building, even while we focus on keeping people safe,” he said. “There is no guarantee that we will get this right.
“What I can guarantee, is that if we don’t work on this, the world is not moving in this direction by itself.”
Translation: Facebook is making the world a better place, and who knows what would happen if we weren’t around.