Facebook’s new profile photo flags and Zuck’s idea of ‘community’

Mark Zuckerberg believes we should be “coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.” That’s why Facebook’s latest feature feels a bit confusing.

Facebook has added nearly 200 flags to its Profile Frames feature, which lets you overlay imagery filters atop your profile photo. Facebook first launched profile frames for sports teams in 2015, and started letting people submit their own frames last year.


But today’s push of flags, many for individual countries, seems to simultaneously align with Zuckerberg’s idea of finding your community on Facebook, yet contradicts the view of the world as a unified global community. If users are proudly waving their country’s flag all over Facebook, it might make them appear even more foreign to users from elsewhere.

It’s this “us versus them” ideology that Zuckerberg rails against in his 5,000-word manifesto, but that is somewhat propelled by these profile flags.

While this might be a minor launch meant to just be fun and patriotic, it outlines the potential concerns with Facebook’s leader taking an outright stand on world issues. Rather than simply maximizing for user engagement, shareholder value and its basic mission to connect people, it must also weigh whether product changes align with its new mission of a safe, inclusive, informed global community.

We need world leaders, including tech CEOs, to stand up for justice and safety for everyone in these dire days of Trump. But that push for the greater good could complicate the facts of running their businesses.