Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook chief executive, warned the world against turning inwards, including building walls, blocking free expression and reducing trade and immigration, in his most politically charged speech to date.
Speaking at Facebook’s annual developer conference in San Francisco, Mr Zuckerberg said the path was to connect more, not less, and to prioritise “hope over fear”. He lashed out against isolationists, in comments that could be read as criticism of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has a controversial plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
“We are one global community,” he said. “Whether we are welcoming a refugee fleeing war or an immigrant seeking opportunity, coming together to fight a global disease like Ebola or to address climate change.”
Facebook defines its mission as connecting the world. Mr Zuckerberg has been increasingly meeting with world leaders, including Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, as he pursues a plan to expand the internet to the billions who do not yet have it.
At home, he has long pursued a relaxation of US immigration rules, both for the highly skilled employees whom Facebook wants to import and the lower skilled workers who have lived in the US as illegal immigrants for years through an organisation called FWD.US.
At the F8 developer conference, Mr Zuckerberg also laid out Facebook’s 10-year plan, prioritising global connectivity, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, with Facebook’s VR headset maker Oculus.
In the nearer term, Facebook is expanding its Facebook Messenger platform, inviting developers to create “bots” that can communicate with users, helping them do everything from buy flowers from 1-800-Flowers or ask for news on specific topics from CNN.
Facebook has made a big push into messaging in the past couple of years. It bought WhatsApp, the SMS replacement app that now has more than a billion users, for $22bn in 2014.
The social network has also successfully expanded its own app, Facebook Messenger, to 900m monthly active users, and hired David Marcus, former PayPal chief executive, to transform it into a platform complete with payments, the ability to order an Uber taxi and book a flight.
At the F8 conference last year, Facebook unveiled Messenger for Business, a way of communicating with consumers via the app, intended to help replace the avalanche of emails people receive from business and to give retailers a closer relationship with their customers.
But the platform has not yet been embraced by more than a handful of businesses, including launch partners Zulily and Everlane, both US ecommerce companies, and newer additions, Uber and airline KLM.
Last week, Facebook announced an expansion of its nascent livestreaming service Facebook Live, creating a hub where people can watch live video and adding features that encourage viewers to communicate to the subject, asking questions and sending emoji.
Mr Zuckerberg showed off a drone which was livestreaming the event, saying that developers can now access Facebook’s livestreaming technology to create new products themselves.
Shares in Facebook, which have risen 34 per cent in the past year, were up 1.5 per cent to $110.61 at the close in New York.
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