On the surface, the new mission statement that social networking giant Facebook unveiled today, “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” doesn’t sound all that different than the old one, “To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” But Facebook is a giant business, and it’s taken a lot of flak recently for being a medium that propagates divisiveness. Step by step, Mark Zuckerberg’s company has tried to tackle that reputation, with Zuckerberg’s manifesto, with lots of new tools for combating the spread of fake news, as well as new systems for trying to keep terrorists off the service.
Facebook doesn’t make changes to things like its mission statement without lots of internal discussion. So it’s clear that the new one is about making the case that it’s about building unity rather than just being a place for people to share their ideas–no matter what those ideas may be. As Zuckerberg put it today, “We need to give people a voice to get a diversity of opinions out there, but we also need to build enough common ground so we can all make progress together. We need to stay connected with people we already know and care about, but we also need to meet new people with new perspectives. We need support from family and friends, but we also need to build communities to support us as well.”
It’s a very optimistic message, and Facebook is going to have to do a lot to convince skeptics that it can be a force for positive change in a world that desperately needs one. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen immediately. But as the largest community of people the world has ever seen, with nearly 2 billion active users, Facebook has the potential to be that change agent. “Our lives are all connected. In the next generation, our greatest opportunities and challenges we can only take on together–ending poverty, curing diseases, stopping climate change, spreading freedom and tolerance, stopping violence,” Zuck wrote. “No single group or even nation can do them alone.”