The Integrity of Stepping Up

Mr. Zuckerberg’s pledge to fix Facebook’s muddied news feed comes after a highly contentious, polluted year of news stories bombarding Facebook users. Many hornets’ nests have been stirred up by special interest groups, troublemakers and internet trolls for a variety of reasons, mainly self-serving. There will always be a handful of bad hanging around anything good. This has tarnished, once again, the promise of social media as a platform for freedom of speech and a potential force for good. Mr. Zuckerberg’s mission to replace quantity content with quality, more meaningful content is a good one, if not an easy one. This shift will bring difficulties, almost certainly with advertisers. More relevant content means less room for irrelevant content. Ad space will be top dollar. Small brands may get crowded out. While there is no perfect business model, this change is a good one.

Individuals have high expectations of those providing a service, even if it’s free. Facebook has over two billion monthly users — a staggering amount of voices. Free or not, Facebook users ultimately call the shots. We want Facebook to reflect who we are. We want our likes, shares and views to matter. We are even territorial about ‘our’ personal pages. From its inception, Facebook has been a social platform, a way to connect. Mark Zuckerberg has shared his personal passion for communicating with us. Over time, Facebook has developed a life of its own. We’ve rolled with its changes. We know, however, that we have some ownership in this platform. 

It’s one thing to emphatically donate untold amounts of money to charitable causes around the world. It’s another to step up, declare openly that your business needs improvement and let the stock market chips fall where they may. Careers, jobs, families and livelihoods are at risk from any sudden move at Facebook. Facebook, like any business, has a responsibility to step up as needed. Business is never one perfect swell that breaks on a beach. There are many important issues to navigate at any given time. News, violence, privacy, ethics, politics, bullying, advertising — these require constant attention. Mr. Zuckerberg has not shirked his responsibilities. In fact, the opposite seems true. As a business leader, few have learned ‘on-the-job’ with more grace, success or authentic concern. Mr. Zuckerberg sets a good example. He admits that Facebook won’t be able to correct its feed perfectly. He also acknowledges Facebook’s own part in a divided community of users. None of us can do a perfect job nor predict with accuracy how this will play out. No business leader has been in this position before nor gone quite the distance. Clearly Mr. Zuckerberg understands that his role comes with great responsibility, and that is a huge start. There is a price for these changes to be sure. But some things, like integrity, are invaluable.