The founder of Facebook is signalling his intention to jump into politics, but would he be any good?
Yes, we haven’t even seen the arrival of President Trump yet, but it’s clear that the founder of the world’s largest social network already sees himself as the next billionaire media mogul to enter the White House.
Rumours of Mark Zuckerberg’s political dreams emerged in December as the clock counted down to the end of 2016 – a lawsuit emerged around a strange clause that would let Zuckerberg retain control of Facebook for two years… if he was serving in government.
Today his plan became clearer as he announced his personal challenge for 2017 to “have visited and met people in every state in the US” by the end of the year.
“After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they’re living, working and thinking about the future.”
A high profile US tour is a hallmark of someone having political aspirations, 32-year-old Zuckerberg has already achieved celebrity status across the country and recently abandoned atheism rediscovering religion – another trait of US presidential hopefuls.
There’s also now a firm precedent for billionaire media tycoons to successfully transition into politics…
Undoubtedly, yes, he absolutely could.
Soon two billion people will use his social platform every month, he’s trusted in the public’s eye, and an aspirational figure among millennials.
He’s also the 5th richest person on earth, with a net worth of $50.7bn – for comparison some favourable metrics put Donald Trump as the 336rd richest person on earth – so Zuckerberg has more than enough cash to fund a huge election campaign.
Plus in 2024, the US presidential election after next, he’ll be 40-years-old and even better known by the American public.
On the one hand Mark Zuckerberg has presented his mission with Facebook in almost philanthropic terms to “make the world more open and connected”, a mission he’s largely succeeding in doing.
Outside of work his Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, an actual philanthropic effort in partnership with his wife, to “advance human potential and promote equality in areas such as health, education, scientific research and energy”.
Backed by 99% of his and his wife’s Facebook shares, valued in the region of $45bn total, with billions already invested in disease research and global education initiatives.
Certainly Zuckerberg has more claims of doing ‘good’ in the world than a certain other media and property tycoon…
On the other hand Zuck has made some rather strange ethical and moral decisions over the years, most recently by censoring Pulitzer prize-winning historical war photography on grounds of nudity.
Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm also has some claim to have aided President-elect Trump’s ascendancy by proliferating fake news and making it harder for people to judge Trump’s eligibility in a balanced way.
Zuckerberg has denied that the social network did anything wrong in allowing fake news to run rampant in the run-up to last year’s US election.
Personally he has never revealed his own political views, some think he’s a conservative, while others believe he could be more liberal.
His only well-known political action has been the backing of FWD.us, a lobbying group in favour of US immigration reform to attract extremely talented and hard-working people as well as a path to citizenship for existing immigrants including those in the US illegally.
The political intentions and leanings of a President Zuckerberg are still largely uncertain and unknowable, but if the founder of the world’s largest social network truly dreams of taking office one day, we should expect him to slowly begin laying out his beliefs and policies over the next few years.