Mark Zuckerberg urged the world not to “succumb to cynicism” despite bigots like Donald Trump calling for Muslims to be banned from entering the United States. Today, Facebook’s CEO posted on his site that “I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world…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”.
The post could alienate some of Facebook’s users. But as with Facebook hosting President Barack Obama for a town hall at its headquarters, Zuckerberg and the company seem comfortable pledging support for liberal ideals and tolerance.
Zuckerberg admits that “the hate of some can make it easy to succumb to cynicism” but insists “we must not lose hope”. It’s a strong showing of the founder’s resolve, considering the cynicism he himself encountered this month after promising to put his fortune towards helping humanity.
Facebook has received some criticism for going along with local censorship laws, especially in heavily-Islamic countries in the Middle East. Some believe Facebook should simply refuse to operate in these countries. But Zuckerberg holds that allowing citizens to connect with each other over Facebook promotes liberty, even if their freedom of speech is limited. In a public Q&A in January he said (paraphrased):
A government passing a law that you can’t say something is one barrier against people having a voice. We try to push back whenever we get requests to block something.
Continuing to operate can help the country in other ways, such as allowing people to connect with loved ones, learn, and find jobs. So I think overwhelmingly our responsibility is to continue operating.
Facebook’s use for organizing protests in the Middle East is credited with contributing to the toppling of some oppressive regimes. And now despite flare ups of racism and xenophobia following terrorist attacks, Zuckerberg is reiterating the fact that Facebook will remain a home for people of all beliefs.
As the social network now hosts more people than any country in the world, it has a massive opportunity to help those of different cultures get to know each other. People fear what they don’t understand, but through friendship, Facebook can erase the lines dividing us.