Mark Zuckerberg Says Facebook Has “Altered Its DNA” As He Reflects On His 2018 Goal To Fix The Company

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has always been a fan of yearly goals. In 2009, he committed to wearing a tie every day to work. In 2011, he told Fortune that he’d only eat meat from animals that he killed with his own hands. Last year, he toured the US in order to understand the nation’s divisions following a contentious election.

2018 was different. In the previous 12 months, Facebook had come under intense scrutiny for its role in the 2016 election, particularly the ways bad actors had manipulated the platform in an ongoing information war. So entering the year, as Zuckerberg saw the tide of public sentiment shifting against the company he created, he committed himself to fixing the social network’s problems.

As it turned out, 2018 was marked by one problem after another for the company. Founders quitting. Cambridge Analytica. Platform-abetted lynchings and genocide. Yet as the year drew to a close, Zuckerberg seemed to think he had done pretty well, based on a self-assessment posted to Facebook.

“For 2018, my personal challenge has been to focus on addressing some of the most important issues facing our community — whether that’s preventing election interference, stopping the spread of hate speech and misinformation, making sure people have control of their information, and ensuring our services improve people’s well-being,” he wrote in a note on Friday. “In each of these areas, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made.”

While glossing over the litany of scandals that ratcheted up public and governmental scrutiny in 2018 alone, Zuckerberg patted himself on the back and gave an optimistic outlook. He mentioned the word “progress” six times in his note, and attempted to establish the idea that the company is now addressing the root of its problems by changing its genetic makeup.

“We’ve fundamentally altered our DNA to focus more on preventing harm in all our services, and we’ve systematically shifted a large portion of our company to work on preventing harm,” he wrote, before adding that the company now has 30,000 people working on safety. That works out to about one Facebook safety employee per every 75,600 monthly active users.

Though much of what Zuckerberg wrote on Friday is not new — it is mostly rehashed from previous talking points — the Facebook chief’s note underscored the notion that Facebook will never be perfect. Zuckerberg acknowledges that election interference and harmful speech “can never be fully solved.”

“That doesn’t mean we’ll catch every bad actor or piece of bad content, or that people won’t find more examples of past mistakes before we improved our systems,” he notes.

As if to prove his point, one of the final scandals the company faced in 2018: An admission on Wednesday from one of its early investors, Reid Hoffman, who said he financed a misinformation campaign during the 2017 special election for an Alabama Senate seat. Facebook has not taken action against Hoffman’s account and said an investigation remains ongoing.

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