Wednesday 21 February 2018

Mark Zuckerberg will be seeking followers as he hints at entering politics

Facebook's chief executive plans to visit every state in the United States for meet-and-greets, fuelling speculation of a career change

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg

Chris Graham

Mark Zuckerberg has announced a new personal challenge for the new year that is fuelling speculation that he plans to enter politics.

The Facebook ceo, who has set himself various challenges in recent years such as learning to speak Mandarin, said he intended to visit and meet people in every state in the US by the end of 2017.

"I've spent significant time in many states already, so I'll need to travel to about 30 states this year to complete this challenge," Mr Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook.

"After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they're living, working and thinking about the future."

Explaining his challenge in statesman-like language, the 32-year-old said the country was "at a turning point in history".

"For decades, technology and globalisation have made us more productive and connected. This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people it has also made life more challenging," he said.

"This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone."

With the wording akin to a political candidate's stump speech, the announcement adds weight to the belief that the entrepreneur and philanthropist plans to enter politics at some point. Last month, it emerged that Mr Zuckerberg had sought to be allowed to serve two years in government without losing control of Facebook, according to court filings cited by Bloomberg.

Erskine Bowles, a Facebook board member and former president Bill Clinton's chief of staff, thought it would "look particularly irresponsible" for Mr Zuckerberg to enter politics while controlling Facebook, the news service reported, citing unsealed court documents from a class-action lawsuit filed in April.

It also said Marc Andreessen, one of the company's most prominent investors, texted the Facebook founder in early March, telling him he would have to figure out "how to define the gov't service thing without freaking out shareholders that you are losing commitment".

In another indication he might harbour political ambitions, Mr Zuckerberg said over Christmas that he believed religion was "very important" and that he was no longer an atheist - once described as the "last taboo" in politics.

According to a Gallup poll in 2012, just 54pc said they would be willing to vote for an atheist - the group people were least likely to vote for when it comes to religion.

Much like a candidate grooming himself for office, Mr Zuckerberg has travelled the globe meeting world leaders, including David Cameron in 2010 and China's president, Xi Jinping, in September 2015.

In August, he met the Pope at the Vatican, where they discussed "how to use communication technologies to alleviate poverty, encourage a culture of encounter, and make a message of hope arrive, especially to those most in need".

His only real foray into politics has been founding Fwd.us, a lobby group backing immigration reform.

Which party he would run for is open to debate. Mr Zuckerberg is registered to vote without a party preference, according to the 'Wall Street Journal', and in 2013 he rejected any traditional political label. Rather than Democrat or Republican, he said: "I'm pro-knowledge economy".

He has hobnobbed with Barack Obama on a number of occasions, yet he hosted his first political fundraiser at his home for Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2013.

Since then, he has donated 11 times to Democratic politicians while only seven to Republicans, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics.

In the most recent election, he stressed his personal and his company's impartiality as he rejected claims that Facebook influenced the US election by allowing fake and incendiary news stories to thrive on the social network.

What is undeniable is the fact that, in an age when the internet is increasingly influential in political campaigns, the social media pioneer - boasting more than 83 million followers on Facebook - would have a significant advantage over opponents. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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