The Atlantic’s Editor-in-Chief James Bennet just conducted a live stream interview with Mark Zuckerberg. The interview covered Zuckerberg’s stance on immigration reform, the recent controversy with the NSA, and why he never comes to Washington D.C. (this is his first visit in three years).
1. Well I try to do an annual D.C. trip, but it happens once every three years.
2. 699 million people use Facebook every day. I tend to think that for myself, the most impactful thing I can do is improve that service for people rather than coming here, but every once in awhile it’s useful to check in. The purpose of this trip is immigration
3. You know, I started getting into immigration because my wife when she graduated from college went and became a teacher and now she just graduated medical school. So our dinner topics are Facebook and kids. So far I’ve been successful pushing it off and not having our own kids, but I’ll lose that eventually.
4. One day she says to me, me and you aren’t going to be the types of people who just write checks to organizations, but has never taught anything ourselves.
5. The more I looked into it, the more unfair this seemed. Silicon Valley is a pretty idealistic place so when I started talking to my other tech company CEO friends and trying to get Forward.us started, I was touched by the response. They all care about this issue. Helping out 11 million undocumented immigrants is a bigger problem than the high skill that companies face.
6. I’m optimistic but I’m an entrepreneur…What I see isn’t the straight bipartisan clash that people talk about all the time, where one side is trying to get something done and another isn’t.
7. Folks in both parties seem like they want to—by and large—move things forward.
8. Obviously we’re not writing the law. We just want to be there to help support folks who are going to take hard positions on something controversial, but ultimately the right decision.
9. Before Forward.us, as far as I can tell, there hasn’t been a single political organization—or at least not one this big—that funds both Democrats and Republicans.
10. We’ve tried to get senior folks on both parties come together. Senior Democrats would never want to be associated with something that was funding Republicans, [and vise versa].
11. I think the Internet is really good in general because it helps people get access to more information.
12. When I was in college taking any Economics class that you’d take or even Democracy Theory, the first thing that you hear is everything in economics or democracy is assumed that people have perfect information. And of course that will never be perfectly true.
13. Facebook [gives]people a voice who wouldn’t otherwise have one. It puts information out there in a way that’s generally positive.
14. I have a pretty optimistic view. The cynical view is that everything is broken and stuck. My view is the system is set up to make catastrophic mistakes and, right now, we are divided and therefore few things should get done. But we’re trying to take a bipartisan approach.
15. My view on [where I locate myself on the political spectrum] is that we’re in the middle of this big economic transition for the world. There was the transition from being a primarily agrarian society to an industrial society, and now I think we’re in the next kind of big shift: to knowledge economy.
16. Industrial- and resource-based approaches are inherently more zero-sum. If I own an oil field you can’t own that same one.
17. A knowledge economy is when me knowing something doesn’t stop anyone else from knowing it. If u have an idea, I can benefit from that and it ends up being positive. Everything I focus on, I’m pro knowledge-economy.
18. Surprisingly, only a third of the people in the world have access to Internet…Sure, there are more pressing issues for some folks, but the Internet is the backbone for knowledge economy.
19. Education is big part of knowledge economy because currency in knowledge economy is having good ideas. And training the next generation to do that is one of the most important things we’re doing.
20. What I can tell from data at Facebook is I think the more transparency in the government of how they’re requesting data from us, the better everyone will feel about it.
21. From reading all the press, you couldn’t get a sense if the number of requests the government makes is close to 1,000 or close to 100 million.
22. What we were able to disclose is that the sum of those requests in the last half year was 9,000—not exactly, but on the order of 9,000. Which tells you that it’s a lot closer to 1,000 than it is to 100 million, which I think people didn’t know.
23. The other thing that I can tell you is we look at every request individually and we push back on ones we think are overly broad or aren’t legal.
24. I don’t know everything [the NSA is] doing to protect our safety. Sometimes they ask for overly broad stuff, [in which case] we push back and take it seriously. We view it as our job to protect every Facebook user.
25. We track trust very closely. Our whole service is based on enabling people to share things publicly but privately. You can share to smaller communities— your school or friends of friends.
26. There are lots of times where we’ll put a statement out or someone will criticize us in the press over privacy, and that stuff doesn’t move the needle too much regarding trust. The NSA stuff did.
27. We track, not just us, but every Internet company we think is relevant—google, twitter…And we found they had the same dip in trust after this.
28. We do not give advertisers data when they’re advertising in our system. I think that’s one of the most misunderstood things about how the system works.
29. Advertisers tell us what they want to target and we try in our system to show advertisements to people who will find it the most relevant. Generally, relevant advertisements are better than less relevant ones because it means we can show fewer ads and more content. And I think, in general, people want that.
30. The way Internet advertising works is just complex.
31. Most things in life aren’t free.
32. I think [Facebook] tends to be a pretty positive tradeoff. I think if you give people the choice to be more connected to the people they care about—that, I think, ends up being a fairly easy decision for most people.
33. Yeah, there are downsides [to Facebook]. People’s feelings get hurt when there’s more transparency because you see people who disagree with you, but I tend to think that’s healthy in the long run. Like any shift in society, it’s a transition, but I think it’s by far net positive.
34. People assume that we’re trying to be cool. I find that interesting. I was like, that’s never been my goal, I’m the least cool person there is. Maybe electricity was cool when it first came out, but pretty quickly people stopped talking about it because it’s not the new thing.
35. We’re almost 10-years-old and we’re definitely not a niche thing at this point, so those angles on coolness are pretty done for us. But what I focus on is: Are we providing something that’s reliable?
36. There are more social services—or, apps. In this city, that may mean a different thing.
37. I don’t view Facebook and the desire and need to be connected as a First World thing. I think this is something that should be very fundamental to the world. As the largest Internet service, I think we’re in a good position to help lead that and push that forward, and we want to help get the next 5 billion people on the Internet and connect.