Mark Zuckerberg gave an impassioned, Obama-like speech defending Facebook

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used his keynote speech at Facebook’s developer conference to throw off the shadow of controversy.
  • He acknowledged Facebook’s missteps and repeated what the company is doing to combat bad actors on the social network.
  • But, taking a cue from former President Obama’s speeches since he left office, he also forcefully defended the company as a force for good and called on its developers to move forward with a sense of optimism.

On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the company’s biggest event of the year, its F8 developer conference in San Francisco, by wasting no time addressing the elephant in the room: the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

And his message, delivered in an Obama-esque speech cadence, was clear: despite how Facebook was weaponised to influence the 2016 presidential election and the Brexit vote, he wants the world to know that Facebook is not inherently evil, but a force for good.

That scandal involved how the data of 87 million Facebook users was scraped and used as a psychological weapon to target voters. The scandal resulted in a #deletefacebook movement, calls for Zuckerberg to resign, and saw the CEO hauled in front of Congress for two days of gruelling testimony amid threats to regulate.

Zuckerberg passionately defended his company on Tuesday saying, “We’re all here because we are optimistic about the future. We have real challenges to address but we need to keep that sense of optimism.”

“We need to take a broader view of our responsibility. It’s not enough to just build helpful, powerful tools. We need to make sure they are used for good. And we will,” he said.

Mark Zuckerberg Facebook F8 2018Getty/Justin Sullivan

Sound familiar? His talk clearly echoed the talks former President Obama has been giving since he left office and the Trump administration’s time began.

For instance, in September, 2017, a day after President Trump delivered a speech on terrorism at the U.N. General Assembly, Obama appeared at an event by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and gave a pep talk.

“Your response has to be to reject cynicism and reject pessimism and push forward, with a certain infectious and relentless optimism,” Obama said on stage at the event. “Not blind optimism, not one that ignores the scale and scope of our challenges, but that hard-earned optimism, that’s rooted in the stories of very real progress that have occurred throughout human history.”

Zuck apparently modelled his keynote after that advice. He documented some of Facebook’s do-good moments in the last year, like its part in the #metoo movement and the March For Our Lives event, and helping raise $US20 million for victims of hurricane Harvey.

He also outlined again all the ways Facebook plans to combat bad actors and fake news.

Zuckerberg even hinted that he was addressing the so-called “filter bubble,” problem at least a little.

That’s a term for how Facebook tends to show you only what it thinks you want to see, thereby validating your worldview. He said that for people who routinely share fake news to their friends, Facebook will somehow warn them about the story and then show them more news stories of other viewpoints.

But, as Obama advised in his speech, he kept coming back to this idea of optimism of what Facebook can still become.

“We’re idealistic. We’ve always focused on all the good connecting people can bring and there’s a lot of it,” Zuckerberg said.

He then launched into all the new products Facebook is building, using his recent grilling in Congress as a humorous way to tout the new “Watch Party” feature, which lets groups watch a Facebook video together.

“Let’s say your friend is testifying in Congress,” he said while showing a picture of his Congressional testimony. “You can laugh together, cry together. Some of my friends actually did this! Let’s not do that again any time soon.”

Zuckerberg Watch Party congress F8 2018Business Insider

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