Digital Media

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative rolls on despite Facebook’s problems

Priscilla Chan at the TechCrunch Distrupt Conference in September 2018


Priscilla Chan at the TechCrunch Distrupt Conference in September 2018

Priscilla Chan wants to make it clear that Facebook and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are two different things, despite their family ties.

Chan, a pediatrician and co-founder of the philanthopic initiative with her husband, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. addressed that boundary Tuesday in an interview on CBS This Morning. (Note: That show and CNET are both part of CBS.) Asked whether 2018 had been a tough year at home, given the scandals that rocked Facebook, she made a distinction between the two entities.

‘Mark and his team [have] done a great job at Facebook,’ she said, ‘but for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative we also want to make sure that we are making good choices and being good stewards of the opportunity.’

And asked whether the initiative’s good-works projects offer an opportunity to whitewash some of Facebook’s problems, she said: ‘Frankly there are a lot easier ways to build up PR than trying to tackle education reform or criminal justice reform.’

Neither Facebook nor the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative immediately responded to a request for comment.

Chan and Zuckerberg launched the initiative in late 2015, pledging to push for progress in education, science, justice and community outreach. Most audaciously, it has set a goal of eliminating disease by the end of the century, investing billion in that effort over the next decade. The initiative is funded on the whole by Zuckerberg’s Facebook shares.

But these are troubled times for Facebook. Over the course of 2018, the mammoth social network was beset by turmoil, from the Cambridge Analytica privacy uproar to a massive data breach to revelations of data-sharing deals that may have violated a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. In April, Zuckerberg spent nearly 10 hours over two days testifying before Congress about how his company handles the data of its more than 2 billion users, how it deals with abuse and election interference, and whether it has a bias against conservative points of view.

Those rough waters have spilled over into 2019 as well. On Tuesday, a committee of the UK Parliament issued a report that likened Facebook to ‘digital gangsters’ operating outside the law. (The Chan interview for CBS This Morning was recorded before that report came out.)

Chan said that neither she nor Zuckerberg have any political ambitions.

As to whether Facebook or the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will ultimately have a greater impact on society, Chan said, ‘Too soon to say.’

Author Since: Mar 26, 2019