In Wake of Privacy Scandal, Facebook Doubles Down on Language of ‘Community’

2 min
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit in San Jose on May 1, 2018. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Last June, Facebook changed its mission statement.

Instead of “making the world more open and connected,” it became “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Building Community. Connecting people. Bringing the world together.

Facebook is using this language heavily as it becomes increasingly scrutinized for how it handles and monetizes the personal data of its users. The messaging was in full force at F8, Facebook’s annual developers conference which took place this week in San Jose.

The conference is normally where Facebook unveils new products and features. This year, it falls directly after the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal first erupted several months ago.

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the keynote speakers who kicked off the conference stuck closely to their talking points and mission statement. Within an hour and 45 minutes, the keynote speakers collectively said “together,” “connect” and “community” 74 times.

The speakers told the crowd that updates to each of Facebook’s services would bring people and businesses closer together. They covered every product: Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, virtual reality (which Facebook is getting into) and even a new dating service unveiled at the conference.

"There can be a touch of Orwellian doublespeak when you think about large corporations using these very human words like 'community,'" said Jan English-Lueck, an anthropologist at San Jose State University.

This language is nothing new for a corporation built online. It has deep roots in the origins of the internet. Take Well for instance. It is a seminal online forum created back in 1985. Its tagline? “More community than you can shake a stick at.”

Facebook vice president of VR Hugo Barra demonstrates the Oculus Go during the annual F8 summit on May 1, 2018.
Facebook vice president of VR Hugo Barra demonstrates the Oculus Go during the annual F8 summit on May 1, 2018. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Some of those who first started talking about the internet in this way, like Jaron Lanier, who was involved with creating the first VR headsets, have criticized Facebook and other big tech corporations for co-opting of these terms.

VR headsets, by the way, drew the biggest applause at the conference -- Zuckerberg announced that everyone there would get a free one.

After the keynote speeches, I went to the press area to upload audio from the event. I had to log onto Facebook’s conference wireless network. Even the password was in line with the conference messaging.

It was all lowercase and just one word: “community.”

Read more from the Reassessing Our Relationship With Technology series.

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