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April 11, 2027
The United Nations has officially acquired all assets of Facebook and will be running the social network as founder Mark Zuckerberg originally intended: a free social utility for all the world to connect.
The new UNbook will be free in more than one way, however.
It will also be free of ads.
For Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the last straw was the border war between Turkey and Armenia that took the lives of more than 235,000 soldiers, militia, and civilians. Facebook groups and messages were pivotal in spreading rumors, outright lies, and biased news stories over the past few years, bringing ethnic tensions between Turks and Armenians to a boil.
“Very honestly, I just really, really don’t want to do this anymore,” Zuckerberg said in an emotional interview on Oprah Winfrey’s video podcast. “I’m an engineer … a developer. I just want to build cool stuff … but for the last decade my life has been a continual hell of politics and legal battles. Impacting elections was bad enough; causing wars was the straw that broke my back.”
After that war, which officially ended in a cease-fire just two months ago, Zuckerberg reached out to UN secretary-general António Guterres.
“I didn’t have a plan. I just wanted to talk. To think out loud.”
In the course of the conversations, Zuckerberg revealed to Winfrey, it became clear to him what really mattered: connecting people. Nurturing community. Bringing the world closer together.
The reality, of course, is that Facebook has served to reinforce and exacerbate reality bubbles, in which different ethnic, political, or economic classes have only become more divided. In addition, Facebook’s targeted ad-driven monetization model has contributed to multiple privacy breaches, and has been shown to be manipulable by those seeking to influence public opinion and government policy.
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The new UNbook, which will launch in five days, will initially have all the same features as Facebook but will drop the ads. All features will be free to all global citizens, but those who want UNbook to store more than 10 gigabytes of data will be asked to pay an annual fee.
In addition, the UNbook algorithm that governs what people see in their newsfeeds and which groups they should join will be public and open source. To combat reality bubbles, the UN will introduce a serendipity factor to ensure that people who tend to only see news about a certain topic or from any given slant will occasionally see news from other perspectives. Any news article that is not explicitly hateful, racist, or violent shared will be allowed, but it will be displayed along with others from varying perspectives.
“Our goal is to focus on what unifies us, not what divides us,” secretary-general Guterres said in a statement. “And to ensure that all of us have a full picture rather than a partial impression.”
Naturally, there are many who are shocked at the sudden shift for what was once called Facebook. A shareholder lawsuit is already underway, and multiple other groups are questioning how the UN will do better, or if it will actually be able to properly fund running Facebook at all.
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“The UN budget is just north of $3 billion annually,” analyst Jocelyn Lemieux told me. “If you took every cent of that, it would cover Facebook’s costs for maybe three months.”
Others are concerned that UN will unduly influence content, seeking to reshape the entire world in its image.
Multiple conspiracy theories have already been published, tying Zuckerberg and Guterres to Illuminati, QAnon, and and other shadowy groups.
You get the sense that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who tried and canceled short-lived paid Facebook account experiment two years ago, is essentially washing his hands of his most famous creation, tired of the decade-long battle over politics and privacy and antitrust. As part of the deal with shareholders, he’ll walk away with just over $1 billion of his recently-estimated $150 billion net worth: enough to start new projects, or just retire and relax.
That last option doesn’t seem likely: Zuckerberg has already said there are about 15 projects he wanted to start before but couldn’t.
One thing is for sure for UNbook: it’s a brave new world. Whether UNbook succeeds or fails, the story will be interesting.
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