Mark Elliot Zuckerberg was born on May 14, 1984 in White Plains, New York. After graduating in 2002 from the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, he enrolled at Harvard University where he earned a reputation as an expert software developer and created a social networking website called The Facebook. After his sophomore year, Zuckerberg dropped …
Mark Elliot Zuckerberg was born on May 14, 1984 in White Plains, New York. After graduating in 2002 from the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, he enrolled at Harvard University where he earned a reputation as an expert software developer and created a social networking website called The Facebook. After his sophomore year, Zuckerberg dropped out of college to devote himself full-time to this project, which he renamed simply as Facebook; it eventually became a multi-billion-dollar corporation.
Zuckerberg and Immigration
Zuckerberg has been outspoken on a number of political matters, most notably immigration reform. “We [Americans] have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants,” he wrote in an April 2013 Washington Post op-ed. “And it’s a policy unfit for today’s world.” That same month,Zuckerberg led a dozen fellow tech-industry executives in co-founding the organization FWD.us, to promote the creation of a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. He explained that the chief objective of his fledgling group, which drew its name from President Barack Obama‘s 2012 re-election campaign slogan (“Forward”), was to bolster America’s “knowledge economy” by attracting “the most talented and hardest-working people” from around the world.
Toward that end, Zuckerberg has consistently favored increasing the number of H-1B visas that are issued to high-tech foreign workers, even though — as of 2013 — half of all students graduating with “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) degrees from American colleges were unable to find employment in those fields. He also supports an expansion of the Optional Practical Training program that allows foreigners with F-1 student visas to take jobs where employers can: (a) pay them much lower wages than they would be required to pay to U.S. workers, and (b) avoid paying Medicare and Social Security taxes on the foreign workers’ behalf.
In September 2013, Zuckerberg visited Capitol Hill to press members of Congress in private meetings to support an amnesty bill advocating citizenship for millions of illegal aliens.
In June 2015, Zuckerberg donated $5 million to TheDream.US, a college scholarship fund created by Washington Post publisher Donald Graham, Democratic National Committee finance chairman Henry Munoz, and “immigrant-rights” activist Gaby Pacheco. Its purpose was to benefit illegal aliens to whom the Obama administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program had granted legal status, work permits, access to certain social services, and protection from deportation. Zuckerburg continued to contribute heavily to the scholarship fund over the ensuing two years.
At a Facebook developer conference in April 2016, Zuckerberg lamented that “as I look around and I travel around the world, I’m starting to see people and nations turning inward—against this idea of a connected world and community.” Without naming anyone in particular, he criticized those who had spoken out against open borders and in favor of immigration-law enforcement: “I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as ‘others,’ for blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, reducing trade and, in some cases around the world, even cutting access to the Internet…. It takes courage to choose hope over fear.”
Zuckerberg and Islam
Zuckerberg has been a vocal opponent of what he views as anti-Islamic speech. In September 2015, for instance, he and Facebook announced that they were joining forces with the German government and a German Internet watchdog called Voluntary Self-Monitoring of Multimedia Service Providers, to monitor what Facebook called the “racist and xenophobic comments” that some visitors were posting to the website. At the time, many Germans objected to the fact that vast numbers of “refugees” were migrating to their country from terrorist strongholds in the Muslim world. Later that month, Zuckerberg assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government had recently complained that Facebook was doing too little to purge its site of comments criticizing Islam, that he would give the issue all the attention it deserved.
Beginning in November 2015, Facebook helped fund a newly formed “Hate Helps” propaganda initiative, organized by a German NGO called Demokratische Kultur (Center for Democratic Action), which pledged to donate one euro for every negative or “racist” comment posted against Muslims and migrants on the Internet.
In January 2016, Facebook launched what it called an “Initiative For Civil Courage Online,” whose purpose was to censor and remove from its website—particularly from items posted by German users—all “racist” posts contain[ing] “hate speech” and “promot[ing] xenophobia.” “Hate speech has no place in our society—not even on the internet,” explained Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.
Reacting to critics who warned Western countries against accepting migrants from terrorist hotbeds in the Middle East, Zuckerberg in early 2016 stated that he had “no tolerance” for “hate speech against migrants,” whom he and Facebook viewed as a “protected group.”
After two Islamic terrorists massacred fourteen Americans at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015—just three weeks after jihadists had killed 130 innocents in Paris—Zuckerberg worried openly that Western Muslims might in turn be victimized by bigoted people of other faiths. “I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world,” he wrote. “After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others…. If you’re a Muslim in this [Facebook] community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.”
By contrast, Zuckerberg has exhibited much less concern about anti-Semitic rhetoric by Muslims. Beginning in September 2015, for instance, bulletins posted on Facebook were helping to fuel and encourage a sudden spate of Palestinian violence (stabbings, shootings, and vehicular attacks) against Jews in Israel. When the Israeli Foreign Ministry asked Zuckerberg and his company to remove any posts that incited anti-Jewish violence, they replied that they were not responsible for such content and had no way of monitoring it effectively. In October 2015, the head of the nonprofit legal organization Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) filed a lawsuit “on behalf of some 20,000 Israelis” accusing Facebook of “fanning the flames of the current Palestinian intifada” by “its refusals to actively monitor and block the incitement to violence.” And in January 2016, Shurat HaDin launched a campaign called “Zuckerberg Don’t Kill Us,” which sought to purchase billboard ads in and around Zuckerberg’s hometown of Palo Alto, California, to publicize Facebook’s negligence regarding this matter.
Zuckerberg was angered by President Trump’s September 2017 announcement that he planned to phase out Barack Obama‘s aforementioned DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) executive action. In an internal message to Facebook employees, Zuckerberg wrote:
“As many of you have heard, the Trump administration just announced they will be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. This is incredibly disappointing, and goes against everything we should stand for as a country.
“I posted about this publicly, and I want all of you to know that we are taking care of employees who are directly affected by this decision. We also realize that there are thousands of people who aren’t employed directly by Facebook but who need help. We’ll fight for you too, both in the courts and with congress to help give Dreamers a permanent legislative path to citizenship. FWD.us, the immigration advocacy group I founded, has been working on this for a long time.”
Zuckerberg and Facebook’s Misuse of Users’ Private Information
In a 2009 interview regarding the manner in which Facebook handled and protected the private personal data of its users, Zuckerberg told BBC journalist Laura Trevelyan that “the person who puts the content on Facebook always owns the information, and this is why Facebook is such a special service.” Those assurances, however, were inconsistent with what Zuckerberg had written during an instant-messenger conversation with a friend around the time he was first getting Facebook off the ground. In that conversation, Zuckerberg had characterized the users of his social network as “dumb f*s” for trusting him with their data. In the 2012 settlement of a 2011 case in which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged Facebook because of its deceptive privacy claims, the company committed to giving its users “clear and prominent notice,” and to obtaining their consent, before sharing their information beyond what their privacy settings allowed.
In March 2018, a pair of bombshell news reports in The New York Times and The Guardian revealed that in 2014, contractors and employees of Cambridge Analytica, a London-based data-mining and analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election team and the successful 2016 Brexit campaign in England, had acquired the private Facebook data of tens of millions of the social networking site’s users. Wired.com explains how this happened:
“[In 2014], a slug of Facebook data on 50 million Americans was sucked down by a UK academic named Aleksandr Kogan, and wrongly sold to Cambridge Analytica…. Kogan actually got his Facebook data by just walking in Facebook’s front door and asking for it. Like all technology platforms, Facebook encourages outside software developers to build applications to run inside it, just like Google does with its Android operating system and Apple does with iOS. And so in November 2013 Kogan, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, created an application developer account on Facebook and explained why he wanted access to Facebook’s data for a research project. He started work soon thereafter.
“Kogan had created the most anodyne of tools for electoral manipulation: an app based on personality quizzes. Users signed up and answered a series of questions. Then the app would take those answers, mush them together with that person’s Facebook likes and declared interests, and spit out a profile that was supposed to know the test-taker better than he knew himself. About 270,000 Americans participated. However what they didn’t know was that by agreeing to take the quiz and giving Facebook access to their data, they also granted access to many of their Facebook friends’ likes and interests as well.… Kogan quickly ended up with data on roughly 50 million people.
“About five months after Kogan began his research, Facebook announced that it was tightening its app review policies.… By then Kogan had already mined the data and sold it to Cambridge Analytica, violating his agreement with Facebook.”
It was eventually learned that the data of up to 87 million people — mostly in the United States — had been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. According to The Guardian, the information contained in the Facebook profiles had been used “to build a powerful software program” to “influence choices at the ballot box” by “target[ing] [people] with personalized political advertisements.” Facebook confirmed in March 2018 that it had been aware of the massive data breach by late 2015 but had elected not to alert its users, and that it took only limited measures thereafter to recover and secure the information that had been compromised.
More on Zuckerberg
In 2013, Zuckerberg, asserting that “connectivity is a human right,” helped launch Internet.org, a partnership through which Facebook and six other tech corporations aimed to bring free Internet access to poor people in underdeveloped countries. Journalist Daniel Greenfield observed that this was “essentially … a subsidy for Facebook disguised as a charity program.”
In 2014 Zuckerberg met in his office with Lu Wei, the czar of China’s Internet censorship system which blocks access to many foreign websites, punishes or shuts down any site that posts content critical of the state, and censors the Web to hide evidence of corruption and wrongdoing by the Chinese government. When Wei noticed a book written by Chinese President Xi Jinping titled The Governance of China on Zuckerberg’s office desk, Zuckerberg said: “I’ve bought this book for my co-workers. I want them to understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
In November 2015, Zuckerberg and a number of fellow billionaires and entrepreneurs (e.g., Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Reid Hoffman, and Jeff Bezos) pledged to use their wealth to spark a “new economic revolution” founded upon “renewable” and “clean” energy. According to Zuckerberg, progress towards sustainable energy systems was proceeding at “too slow” a pace.
On December 5, 2015, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, publicly pledged to use their newly launched “Chan Zuckerberg Initiative” to give away, over the remainder of their lives, 99% of their Facebook shares—which at the time were valued at about $45 billion—to help “advanc[e] human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation.” The SEC filing for this endeavor took pains to reassure investors that Zuckerberg planned “to sell or gift no more than $1 billion of Facebook stock each year for the next three years” and would retain “his majority position in our stock for the foreseeable future.” Moreover, the initiative was structured not as a nonprofit but as a Limited Liability Corporation, thereby allowing it to earn and invest as much money as it wished.
In February 2016 Zuckerberg posted, on a Facebook announcement page, a private memo to his company’s employees, noting, with disapproval, that some of them had been scratching out the increasingly popular “Black Lives Matter” meme and replacing it with “All Lives Matter” on the company’s famous signature wall. Wrote Zuckerberg:
“There are specific issues affecting the black community in the United states, coming from a history of oppression and racism. ‘Black lives matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t—it’s simply asking that the black community also achieves the justice they deserve. We’ve never had rules around what people can write on our walls—we expect everybody to treat each other with respect. Regardless of the content or location, crossing out something means silencing speech … This has been a deeply hurtful and tiresome experience for the black community and really the entire Facebook community, and we are now investigating the current incidents. I hope and encourage people to participate in the Black@ town hall on [March 4th] to educate themselves about what the Black Lives Matter movement is about.”
In May 2016, the website Gizmodo reported that according to a number of former Facebook employees, workers at the company “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section.”
According to hacked emails published in October 2016 by WikiLeaks, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg emailed John Podesta, Hillary Clinton‘s campaign chairman, in August 2015 to see if Podesta would be willing to meet with Zuckerberg, to teach the latter about various political issues and the art of influencing public opinion. Wrote Sandberg:
“…[W]ondering if you would be willing to spend some time with Mark Zuckerberg. Mark is meeting with people to learn more about next steps for his philanthropy and social action and it’s hard to imagine someone better placed or more experienced than you to help him. As you may know, he’s young and hungry to learn — always in learning mode — and is early in his career when it comes to his philanthropic efforts. He’s begun to think about whether/how he might want to shape advocacy efforts to support his philanthropic priorities and is particularly interested in meeting people who could help him understand how to move the needle on the specific public policy issues he cares most about. He wants to meet folks who can inform his understanding about effective political operations to advance public policy goals on social oriented objectives (like immigration, education or basic scientific research).”
“Happy to do,” Podesta wrote in response.
On May 25, 2017, Zuckerberg was the commencement speaker at Harvard University’s graduation ceremony. There, he exhorted the graduates to seek out a “new social contract” that would guarantee a universal basic income for everyone. Among his remarks were the following:
- “How about stopping climate change before we destroy the planet and getting millions of people involved manufacturing and installing solar panels?”
- “[T]oday, we have a level of wealth inequality that hurts everyone. When you don’t have the freedom to take your idea and turn it into a historic enterprise, we all lose…. There is something wrong with our system when I can leave here and make billions of dollars in 10 years while millions of students can’t afford to pay off their loans, let alone start a business…. I know lots of people who haven’t pursued dreams because they didn’t have a cushion to fall back on if they failed.”
- “Every generation expands its definition of equality. Previous generations fought for the vote and civil rights. They had the New Deal and Great Society. Now it’s our time to define a new social contract for our generation…. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things…. And yes, giving everyone the freedom to pursue purpose isn’t free. People like me should pay for it. Many of you will do well and you should too.”
In March 2018, it was reported that in 2012, Facebook had voluntarily provided the presidential re-election campaign of Barack Obama with data on millions of its users. According to the Daily Signal, that data was “a more sophisticated version of the type of data that has long been provided by professional direct mail marketers” who help political campaigns to more effectively target prospective sources of “votes and money.” On March 18, 2018, Carol Davidsen, Obama For America’s former media director, tweeted that Facebook employees had come to the Obama campaign office six years earlier and “were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.” Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky puts the foregoing information in perspective:
“If true, such action by Facebook may constitute a major violation of federal campaign finance law as an illegal corporate campaign contribution…. A federal law bans corporations from making ‘direct or indirect’ contributions to federal candidates. That ban extends beyond cash contributions to ‘any services, or anything of value.’ In other words, corporations cannot provide federal candidates with free services of any kind…. Corporations can certainly offer their services, including office space, to federal campaigns. But the campaigns are required to pay the fair market value for such services or rental properties.”
In the fall of 2016, Zuckerberg pressured one of Facebook’s top executives, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, to publicly apologize for having supported Donald Trump during that presidential election season, and to issue a letter just before Election Day stating that he had recently switched his allegiance to libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. In a September 2016 email to Luckey’s attorney, Facebook Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal wrote: “I need to tell you that Mark [Zuckerberg] himself drafted this [an attached apology for which Luckey was instructed to claim authorship] and details are critical.” The apology subsequently went through numerous drafts before Luckey and Facebook ultimately agreed on the precise wording.
On November 15, 2018 — just hours after Facebook had cut its ties with Definers Public Affairs, a political consulting firm that had accused George Soros of funding a group of anti-Facebook activists — Zuckerberg said: “I have tremendous respect for George Soros.”
In an October 2019 interview, Zuckerberg, whose net worth at that time was $69 billion, was asked to comment on Senator Bernie Sanders’s recent assertion that “I don’t think that billionaires should exist.” Zuckerberg replied: “I understand where he’s coming from. I don’t know that I have an exact threshold on what amount of money someone should have but on some level no one deserves to have that much money.”
Zuckerberg once spent $30 million to purchase four homes situated on properties surrounding his own, in order to get “a little more privacy” for himself. And in 2016, he hired contractors to build a six-foot-high physical wall around his $100 million, 700-acre Hawaii property—a stark contrast to his earlier condemnation of “fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as ‘others’” and refusing “to choose hope over fear.”
For additional information on Mark Zuckerberg, click here.
-  In December 2015, Shurat HaDin initiated what it called “The Big Facebook Experiment,” which sought to expose Facebook’s double standard regarding hateful rhetoric that targeted Muslims as opposed to Jews. Specifically, the NGO created two nearly-identical pages—one anti-Israel, the other anti-Palestinian—and then proceeded to post nearly identical hateful content on both pages simultaneously. According to the Jerusalem Post: “The page inciting against Palestinians was closed by Facebook (on the same day that it was reported) for ‘containing credible threat of violence’ which ‘violated our [Facebook’s] community standards’ … The page inciting against Israelis, however, was not shut down, despite its identical hateful content. Shurat HaDin said that Facebook claimed that this page was ‘not in violation of Facebook’s rules.’”
- On March 20, 2018, The Guardian reported the following:”Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower. Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach. ‘My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,’ he said.”Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that ‘people didn’t read or understand’ and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused…. Asked what kind of control Facebook had over the data given to outside developers, he replied: ‘Zero. Absolutely none. Once the data left Facebook servers there was not any control, and there was no insight into what was going on.’ … He said one Facebook executive advised him against looking too deeply at how the data was being used, warning him: ‘Do you really want to see what you’ll find?’ Parakilas said he interpreted the comment to mean that ‘Facebook was in a stronger legal position if it didn’t know about the abuse that was happening’….”Parakilas, 38, who now works as a product manager for Uber, is particularly critical of Facebook’s previous policy of allowing developers to access the personal data of friends of people who used apps on the platform, without the knowledge or express consent of those friends. That feature, called friends permission, was a boon to outside software developers who, from 2007 onwards, were given permission by Facebook to build quizzes and games – like the widely popular FarmVille – that were hosted on the platform. The apps proliferated on Facebook in the years leading up to the company’s 2012 initial public offering…. Facebook took a 30% cut of payments made through apps, but in return enabled their creators to have access to Facebook user data.”Parakilas does not know how many companies sought friends permission data before such access was terminated around mid-2014. However, he said he believes tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands of developers may have done so….
“During the time he was at Facebook, Parakilas said the company was keen to encourage more developers to build apps for its platform and ‘one of the main ways to get developers interested in building apps was through offering them access to this data.’ … While the previous policy of giving developers access to Facebook users’ friends’ data was sanctioned in the small print in Facebook’s terms and conditions, and users could block such data sharing by changing their settings, Parakilas said he believed the policy was problematic. ‘It was well understood in the company that that presented a risk,’ he said. ‘Facebook was giving data of people who had not authorized the app themselves, and was relying on terms of service and settings that people didn’t read or understand.’
“It was this feature that was exploited by Global Science Research, and the data provided to Cambridge Analytica in 2014. GSR was run by the Cambridge University psychologist Aleksandr Kogan, who built an app that was a personality test for Facebook users. The test automatically downloaded the data of friends of people who took the quiz, ostensibly for academic purposes. Cambridge Analytica has denied knowing the data was obtained improperly, and Kogan maintains he did nothing illegal and had a ‘close working relationship’ with Facebook. While Kogan’s app only attracted around 270,000 users (most of whom were paid to take the quiz), the company was then able to exploit the friends permission feature to quickly amass data pertaining to more than 50 million Facebook users.”
- The Gizmodo story reported that a politically conservative individual who had formerly worked on the “trending” news section said, on condition of anonymity, that “workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.” Added the story:“Several former Facebook ‘news curators,’ as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially ‘inject’ selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all…. [C]urators have access to a ranked list of trending topics surfaced by Facebook’s algorithm, which prioritizes the stories that should be shown to Facebook users in the trending section. The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic, and include links to news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, constitutes some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate what news Facebook’s users—167 million in the U.S. alone—are reading at any given moment.“’Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,’ said the former curator…. ‘I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.’“The former curator was so troubled by the omissions that they kept a running log of them at the time; this individual provided the notes to Gizmodo. Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder. ‘I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news,’ the former curator said….“The conservative curator described the omissions as a function of his colleagues’ judgements; there is no evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work.”
Zuckerberg and fellow Facebook officials denied the allegations.