Facebook Sets New Vision for Next Decade, Outlines New Features -- Update

By Deepa Seetharaman Features Dow Jones Newswires

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday took a step toward defining a new vision for the social-media company as it grapples with how to handle its growing power in the world.

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Over the next decade, Facebook's focus will be giving people the "power to build community and bring the world closer together," the company said in a statement -- a shift from its longtime motto "connect the world."

Mr. Zuckerberg articulated this new mission at a Facebook event in Chicago for about 300 leaders of some of the largest groups on the platform. Facebook also outlined a raft of new features to help make Facebook groups more popular.

"I used to think that if we just gave people a voice...that would make the world a lot better by itself," Mr. Zuckerberg said at the event. "But our society is so very divided so now I believe we have a responsibility to do even more not simply to connect the world but also work to bring the world closer together."

Facebook executives have been contemplating the company's role following several controversies, including criticism over the social network's part in spreading misinformation during the U.S. presidential election and its handling of violent live videos.

This latest vision comes roughly four months after Mr. Zuckerberg posted a broad manifesto positioning Facebook as the "social infrastructure" for the world. He said he wants Facebook, founded in 2004, to address some of humanity's biggest problems, from terrorism to climate change.

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Mr. Zuckerberg has been traveling through the U.S. to better understand how Facebook can help solve some of these problems. He has suggested many of the country's problems stem from the collapse of social institutions, and said Facebook could do more to promote community belonging.

Thursday, the company doubled down on this idea by outlining new features for its Groups product. They include "group-to-group linking" so administrators can recommend similar or related groups to their members. Facebook said this feature was just the beginning of how it would help bring "communities and sub-communities closer together."

Expanding Groups is one of the big priorities for the Facebook partnerships team in the second half of the year. Mr. Zuckerberg has said 100 million Facebook users belong to what it calls "very meaningful groups" or online Facebook groups that are vital to their social lives. He has said he wants to increase membership in these groups to a billion within a few years.

The move would make Facebook more essential to users, but also raises thorny questions about privacy and Facebook's broadening reach into the lives of its nearly two billion users.

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at Deepa.Seetharaman@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 22, 2017 12:41 ET (16:41 GMT)