Leadership

Mark Zuckerberg shares his strategy for leading Facebook through controversy

Mark Zuckerberg
Photo by Bloomberg
Mark Zuckerberg

Since Donald Trump was elected President, Facebook received lots of criticism for not doing enough to identify and delete "fake news" posts from its platform. The controversy is one of several recently that have made founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg's job particularly complicated.

Being the leader in such times requires an understanding that there will always be people who are not happy, as well as a steady hand, Zuckerberg says, according to an interview with him in Fast Company.

While launching and growing a company is never easy, the founder has had to deal with intricate challenges of late.

"When we were getting started with Facebook in 2004, the idea of connecting the world was not really controversial. The default was that this was happening, and people were generally positive about it. But in the last few years, that has shifted, right?" Zuckerberg says.

In February, he published a manifesto in defense of a connected global future.

Zuckerberg not only has to field questions from those who are skeptical that connecting the world improves it. He also has to deflect fears that Facebook tolerates "fake news" because it helps the company's bottom line.

"If you take, for example, some of the debates that are going on now around the news industry and misinformation. There's definitely a strain of criticism that Facebook [allows] misinformation because it will make them more money. And that really is just not true at all," Zuckerberg says.

As Facebook works to strike a fine balance between encouraging free speech and reducing the number of false and inflammatory stories, Zuckerberg has to be okay with the idea that some users won't be satisfied.

"It is hard, and you never make everyone a hundred percent happy," he says.

"Freedom of speech is a funny thing because people always want freedom of speech unless people disagree with them."

What's important, he says, is remembering to keep a level head and to maintain perspective.

"Depending on how controversial of a cycle we're in, people might focus more on the positive or the negative, but in running a company like this you want to be a little more steady," Zuckerberg says.

The CEO stays steady in part by taking the long view. Facebook is a work in progress, acknowledges Zuckerberg. The product wasn't and isn't perfect and it might never be. It's constantly evolving.

"People always want freedom of speech unless people disagree with them." -Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

"Every system is imperfect. But I also think having this framework — that it is a work in progress — is probably a more realistic framing than, 'Oh, what you're doing has all these flaws.' I mean, it's not wrong to say that it has flaws, but I just wonder if that's an overly negative framing, not just of Facebook but of any business or any system," says Zuckerberg.

"You got here by doing certain things, and the world is changing around you, and you need to adapt."

Facebook has been adapting since Zuckerberg launched it from Harvard in 2004, and it's still growing and changing as its audience does, he says.

"We are almost at two billion people [at Facebook], out of more than seven billion in the world, so from our perspective we are earlier on in this than later."

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