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Mark Zuckerberg is changing the way we get our news — and making a boatload of money while doing it

Zuckerberg is No. 4 on the Recode 100.

It’s hard to imagine when Mark Zuckerberg slept in 2017.

The Facebook CEO, still just 33, had his most consequential year since Facebook’s 2012 IPO. Facebook’s business is bigger than it has ever been. He accidentally convinced everyone he was going to run for president. (He isn’t.) He had a second baby.

And most importantly, Zuckerberg came to grips — very publicly — with the fact that Facebook may have unintentionally helped put Donald Trump in the White House, a reckoning that promises to have lasting impact on everything from national security to the way people around the world consume their news.

Let’s start with the good: Facebook is massive, and showing no signs of slowing its growth. The company has established itself, alongside Google, as one of just two dependable places for advertisers to spend their mobile advertising budgets.

As a result, Facebook is expected to do more than $40 billion in revenue this year, about 45 percent more than it did last year. And despite the election drama (and a few other embarrassing stumbles), Facebook stock is up 48 percent on the year. Its market value grew by about $170 billion this year and now tops $500 billion.

And while it’s not as easy to quantify, Facebook’s greatest accomplishment this year may be the perceived dismantling of up-and-coming rival Snapchat, which posed the greatest threat to Facebook’s longterm business since Google thought it could become a social media company.

Facebook and Zuckerberg’s plan to copy Snapchat — and copy and copy and copy — derailed Snapchat’s momentum, and the once-hot app no longer looks like a serious threat to steal away future generations of Facebookers.

All of those successes, though, have been overshadowed by Facebook’s naïveté on politics and media. In 2016, Russian state actors used Facebook to try and sway public opinion during the U.S. presidential election. Facebook claims it had no idea, which meant it spent much of 2017 trying to explain to the public — and to Congress — how and why its business was unknowingly weaponized by a foreign government.

Zuckerberg took the realization particularly hard. It prompted him to visit 26 different states in a kind of soul-searching mission to better connect with Americans outside of his Silicon Valley bubble.

In February, he penned a nearly 6,000-word manifesto outlining plans for Facebook to better the world. And when he returned to his alma mater, Harvard, to give the commencement address, an emotional Zuckerberg was more statesman than CEO as he called on the new graduates to leave the world a better place.

“It is time for our generation-defining great works,” he said on a rain-soaked afternoon in Cambridge. “How about stopping climate change before we destroy the planet? ... How about curing all diseases?”

Zuckerberg has always been a big-picture, long-term thinker. His contributions extend far beyond a feed full of baby photos, and he’s now one of the most influential people shaping our future techtopia.

His projects include building augmented reality glasses, flying an internet-beaming drone for months at a time and curing all disease. Not bad for the guy whose first product was a version of “hot or not.”

More immediate, though, will be his task of fighting the spread of misinformation online, an issue that isn’t unique to Facebook but that rests on the company’s shoulders given its massive reach and influence. Zuckerberg has already changed the way that news — and other content — is delivered. Now he’s taken on the responsibility of trying to police that content, too.

Zuckerberg’s perch atop Facebook and his ability to alter a communication product used by more than two billion people mean he is consistently one of the world’s most influential people. It’s just a question of what he’ll do with that influence next.

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