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The Facebook products Mark Zuckerberg thinks could help save the world

The Zuckerberg manifesto, explained.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg posted nearly 6,000 words today outlining his vision for Facebook’s future, which includes a lot of ways he thinks Facebook can help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

The post is much more general than it is specific. Zuckerberg focused on the big issues he wants to address — things like increasing voter turnout worldwide and preventing terrorist attacks — not necessarily the actual products he’ll use to fix them.

But if you look closely at the piece, Zuckerberg drops a couple of hints as to how Facebook’s product — used by about 1.9 billion people per month — might evolve in order to combat these issues. Many of the ideas are clearly early — it’s possible they could evolve into something else or disappear altogether.

Here are a few things to look for:

More artificial intelligence

Zuckerberg mentions AI a few times, primarily in a section about creating more tools around user safety. Facebook already uses a lot of AI to do things like identify people in photos and show you relevant posts in its News Feed, but Zuckerberg thinks that technology can expand.

He specifically mentions AI that “can read and understand news,” which Facebook is currently using to separate news stories about terrorism from actual terrorist propaganda. Zuckerberg wants to continue to build AI to prevent things like bullying, suicides and even terrorist attacks. “We are researching systems that can look at photos and videos to flag content our team should review,” he writes. “This is still very early in development.”

New community guidelines

Facebook writes a single set of community guidelines for users in every region and culture throughout the world. Needless to say, the system isn’t perfect for everyone.

In the letter, Zuckerberg admits that Facebook sometimes drops the ball on policing user content, and points out how the company erroneously took down content related to sensitive issues, like Black Lives Matter and police violence, that should have been left up. “This has been painful for me because I often agree with those criticizing us that we're making mistakes,” he writes.

Zuckerberg says he’s thinking about changing the community guidelines as a result. The rough plan: Create “a large-scale democratic process to determine standards with AI to help enforce them,” he wrote. In other words, let people vote on what is appropriate and inappropriate, and let people personalize their own settings.

“For those who don't make a decision, the default will be whatever the majority of people in your region selected,” he adds.

Voting through Facebook?

Zuckerberg spends a couple paragraphs discussing civic engagement, specifically poor voter turnout around the world. He wants to fix that. Facebook has already started pushing people to register to vote, and Zuckerberg claims two million people registered to vote in the U.S. alone via Facebook this past year. “We hope to eventually enable hundreds of millions of more people to vote in elections than do today, in every democratic country around the world,” he writes.

Zuckerberg doesn’t specifically mention voting via Facebook, but says he wants to establish “a new process for citizens worldwide to participate in collective decision-making.”

Either way, expect Facebook to push the voter registration thing much harder moving forward.

More communicating with politicians

In that same vein, Zuckerberg wants people communicating more with local politicians.

“We can help establish direct dialog and accountability between people and our elected leaders,” he writes.

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp were both mentioned as ways people currently connect with politicians, which suggests there could be more products in that vein down the line.

New tools inside groups

Zuckerberg thinks online groups are important, and wants to “build more tools to support community leaders” running these online communities.

We don’t know what those new tools will look like, but Zuckerberg also wants to let people make smaller groups inside a bigger group. “A school, for example, is not a single community, but many smaller groups among its classes, dorms and student groups,” he writes. “We plan to expand groups to support sub-communities.”

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