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Facebook founder sets out vision for a digital future

Katie Wright reports on Mark Zuckerberg's mighty missive

By Katie Wright

If a friend of yours posted a 5,738-word Facebook status, would you read the whole thing? Probably not, but then chances are, your pals don't have 86 million followers like Mark Zuckerberg.

The social network's founder has published an open letter on his page, detailing a five-point plan to build a better global community that's supportive, safe, informed, civically-engaged and inclusive.

Sound like a snooze-fest? Here's the tl;dr (too long; didn't read) summary.

Admitting that "bringing us all together as a global community is a project bigger than any one organisation, or company", the 32-year-old suggests social groups now replace churches for some people, as, he says, surveys show "large percentages of our population lack a sense of hope for the future".

He's basically saying the real-world connections social media enables give people hope, and vows the site will be building tools to "empower community leaders", too.

On safety, he talks about global threats like terrorism and natural disasters, citing the hundreds of times Facebook's Safety Check feature has been activated in two years, so users can report they're secure after a major incident, but also concedes there is more that can be done by Facebook to prevent tragedies like suicides and that Artificial Intelligence will increasingly play a role in this sphere.

Taking aim at fake news and sensationalism in the media, Zuckerberg believes there are "clear steps we can take to correct these effects".

For instance, taking into account that "click bait" stories are less likely to be shared once a reader has discovered the content doesn't match the hyperbolic headline and ensuring these articles don't appear as frequently in news feeds.

Boasting that his social network helped two million people register and then vote in the last US election, and that candidates with the largest Facebook following usually triumph come polling day, Zuckerberg is less clear on how he'll encourage civic engagement, simply stating "we will work on building new tools".

Addressing arguably the most complex issue last - that of allowing people to share what they feel is important without offending others - the California-based exec writes that it's "painful" when they make mistakes in this ever-evolving area.

He envisions a more personalised approach where Facebook asks you how you feel about the depiction of nudity, violence, or graphic content, in the same way you can choose to remove irritating people from your feed.

And in the meantime, if you want to avoid 5,000-word polemics from the guy in charge? You know where the 'hide' button is ...

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