Cool Leaders · Media

We are witnessing the emergence of a new media economy

By Hamish McKenzie

In 2010, at 29 years old, I came to the US as a freelance journalist. My previous job had been as a writer for an entertainment magazine in Hong Kong, and I had no connections here. That first year, living in Austin, Texas, I scrapped for stories about cartel murders, human relationships, and, um, the World Beard and Moustache Championships. I sent them to magazines and newspapers in Hong Kong and New Zealand. For extra income on the side, I wrote entries for ad agencies that were submitting their work for awards. At the end of the year, I tallied my pre-tax earnings and found I had made $35,000. 

That amount seemed small to some of my friends. Despite two advanced degrees and six years of journalism experience, I earned a lot less than peers who had gone into other careers. But I was so proud of myself. I didn’t care about getting rich. I cared only about earning enough money to keep doing work that I felt was meaningful – in ways big and small. A phone call I received a few years earlier during an internship for a New Zealand newspaper had stuck in my mind. I had written an article about a group of World War II veterans who were raising funds for a memorial trip to Crete, where some of their friends were laid to rest. It was a short piece buried in the middle of the paper, and I had thought little of it. But after it was published, a daughter of one of the veterans called to thank me, profusely, because the article meant so much to those men. I would go on to write much bigger stories in my career, but I was forever in search of the feeling I had on that call. My storytelling had made a positive difference in someone’s life. It was the best kind of pay a journalist could hope for.

Were I starting as a freelancer in a similar position today, I don’t think I could scrape together $35,000 in a year – even with corporate side gigs. An industry that once sustained so many writing careers is now in a freefall accelerated by the pandemic. I have been watching in dismay as news organizations of all sizes from around the world have been laying off journalists and slashing freelance budgets. My friends are losing their livelihoods. Writers I have respected for years are getting desperate. These people aren’t just in despair over losing their jobs; they’re scared that the very profession might disappear. Will being a journalist ever be financially viable again? Most of them have never sought riches; they just hope to earn enough money to cover the bills so they can do the work they believe is important. To many, that’s starting to look impossible. 

One of the most painful aspects of this situation is that journalism itself isn’t broken. People want and need trusted storytelling more than ever, and there are many capable journalists ready to do the work. But the business model that supports journalism is broken, with devastating repercussions. In recent weeks, we’ve seen mass layoffs at The Economist, Condé Nast, Quartz, BuzzFeed, Vice, and Protocol, to name a few. There will be thousands more. These losses come on top of years of retrenchment and consolidation, including the sales of once-vaunted and now-distressed publications to legacy-burnishing billionaires, and the bankruptcies and mergers of giant newspaper groups such as McClatchy, Gannett, and GateHouse — a crushing blow to local news in particular.

Some in the news business hope that Facebook and Google, under the right pressure from regulators, will send them rescue money. But no matter how much money can be squeezed out of the tech giants, it will never be enough to fix the broken parts of the support system that once sustained the free press. Instead, to find a way forward, those who care about the future of news need to play a different game – one that puts writers in control of their own destiny.

This is one of the key reasons we started Substack. We’re attempting to build an alternative media economy that gives journalists autonomy. If you don’t rely on ads for your revenue, you don’t have to be a pawn in the attention economy – which means you don’t have to compete with Facebook and Google. If you’re not playing the ads game, you can stop chasing clicks and instead focus on quality. If you control the relationship with your audience, you don’t have to rely on outside parties to favor you with traffic. And if you own a mailing list, no-one can cut you off from your readers. 

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about what might come along to “save” the news business from the ravages of the internet. But I think that’s the wrong framing. It’s better to ask: How can we use the internet to reinvent the entire business? We’ve defaulted to ads as the dominant business model for so long that we’ve failed to fully explore other options. I don’t accept that an ad-supported model is the best possible way to unleash humanity’s ability to produce and disseminate trustworthy storytelling. I don’t believe that we’ve seen the full potential of how good the news business can be. And yes, now we are in a crisis. But that crisis is an opportunity for reinvention. It’s a chance to build a new system where writers are well compensated and communities are well served. The internet might have helped get us into this mess, but it can also get us out.

The internet makes distribution frictionless and free – what used to take hours in trucks now takes milliseconds on the web. It makes a writer’s potential audience global instead of local. And it makes it easy to get paid. With a tool like Substack, you don’t need a complicated setup to manage the flow of information and money. When you don’t have to worry about a tech stack, design, back-office admin, or advertisers, you can spend all your time and energy on the most important thing: the journalism itself. 

With the subscription model, the numbers don’t have to be huge to produce meaningful revenue. If you can persuade a couple thousand people to pay you $5 a month, you’ll make $100,000 a year. It’s not easy – it takes time, dedication, and care – but it’s more doable than ever. In 2007, when I was hired as a reporter for a new trade magazine in Hong Kong, the assumption was that magazines like that took three years to become profitable. With the Substack model, the time to profitability can be reduced to months or even days, since you don’t need to staff up, build a sales operation, or stand up the technological infrastructure. 

Look at what Polina Marinova, formerly of Fortune, is doing with The Profile, where she focuses on deep-dives on fascinating people; or what Tony Mecia, formerly of the Weekly Standard, is doing with business news publication the Charlotte Ledger; or how Richard Rushfield, a former editor of HitFix, is covering the business of Hollywood with The Ankler. Matt Taibbi left Rolling Stone and is using Substack to put a spotlight on corruption in politics. Matt Elliott is covering Toronto’s City Hall. Judd Legum is exposing miscreant corporate giants with Popular Information

These journalists are doing the work they find most meaningful, having an impact, and making good money along the way. Emily Atkin, formerly of the New Republic, launched her climate change publication Heated in late 2019. A few months later, she is doing better by all measures than in any of her previous journalism jobs. “I was so scared when I left the New Republic that I would have to fight so hard to make my work have an impact because I lacked this institutional support,” Emily told an audience of writers in New York earlier this year, adding later: “I can’t believe how wrong I was.”

“I’ve never seen the type of impact that I’ve had in a 10-year reporting career than what I’ve had with such a smaller news audience, and that’s because these are passionate people. These are people who are there because of you, and they’re invested in you, and they take what you do and they yell about it.” 

Even though Emily is just getting started with Heated, it’s already working out financially, she said. Her income is comfortably in six figures. “I make more money now than I had at any salaried journalism job.”

Today, Substack publications are like islands on their own, with little communication between each. But over time, we aim to build Substack into a network, where writers can support each other and readers can find millions of deeply satisfying media experiences. As the network grows, there’ll be opportunity for cooperation, community, and innovation. We’re already starting to see people work together to take advantage of new opportunities with Substack. The writers who used to staff Gizmodo Media Group’s Splinter have started a new project called Discourse Blog. The Weekly Standard’s former editor-in-chief, Steve Hayes, teamed up with Jonah Goldberg and David French from the National Review to create The Dispatch, which crossed $1 million in revenue in a matter of weeks. A team of basketball writers who love the Golden State Warriors left SB Nation and created Let’s Go Warriors. Dan Shipper and Nathan Baschez have jury-rigged a bundle for their business-strategy publications, Divinations and Superorganizers

I’m wary of selling false hope to journalists who have been burned many times over by grand promises from technology companies. It is true that this new model won’t immediately work for everyone. But there are early signs that we are witnessing the emergence of a new media economy. The top writers on Substack are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and there’s a rapidly growing middle class, with writers and podcasters netting incomes that range from pocket money to high five figures. There are now well over 100,000 paying subscribers to Substack publications. We are learning from the activity in these early days and building resources and programs — such as fellowshipsworkshops, and grants — to help as many people as possible succeed.  

As I reflect on my career as a journalist, I feel compelled to do everything in my power to help. I can’t guarantee success to just anyone who starts on Substack, but I can guarantee our support. If you’ve been affected by this crisis and are interested in exploring what’s possible on Substack, please get in touch (hello@substack.com). Our team is focused on taking one-on-one coaching and development calls to talk about editorial strategies, how to think about launching paid subscriptions, and offering best practices for getting started. But we also know that the best guides are other writers on Substack who are succeeding with the model. Below is a list of Susbtack writers who have volunteered to offer advice. Fill in this form and we’ll set you up on a call. 

I believe that we’ll get through this together, and one day we will look back at this time not as the end of days, but as the start of a transition that transformed journalism for the better. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported Substack, and Substack writers, so far. There’s so much more to come.


Substack writers who have volunteered to offer advice calls 

To schedule a call, please complete this form.

(Want to add your name to this list? Email hello@substack.com with “Volunteer” in the subject line.)


Hamish is co-founder and COO of Substack.

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Cool Leaders

This is a global crisis and for millions of children the impact will be life long

By Greta Thunberg

Very honoured to receive Human Act Award. The prize money – 100 000 USD – will be donated to @unicef . Human Act will match this donation with an additional USD 100,000 for the total sum of USD 200,000.

So today we are launching a joint global funding campaign – Let’s Move Humanity for Children in the Fight Against Coronavirus – to support UNICEF´s efforts to protect and save children’s lives during the corona crisis.

The poorest and the most vulnerable people are always the hardest hit by a crisis.
Just like the climate crisis, the consequences of the corona pandemic will be most damaging for children in poor countries, in the poorest neighborhoods and for those already in disadvantaged and vulnerable situations.

More than 1,5 billion children are today affected by school closures.
This has a direct effect on millions of children and young people’s possibilities to learn, to a lunch meal and get access to water and sanitation.

More than 300 million school children rrely on schools as a source of daily nutrition.

Millions of children do not have access to distance learning. The digital divide is an example of global inequalities that affects the most vulnerable children.

Even if children so far generally have been spared the most severe symptoms of the Covid-19 virus, children’s lives and heath are already at risk. This is mainly due to lack of access to healthcare services – both for children and pregnant women – because of vaccination campaigns being suspended as well as lack of nutrition.

With the global health care services becoming overwhelmed there will be many additional child deaths in 2020.

This is a global crisis and for millions of children the impact will be life long. We need to act now – for the sake of every child.

The time is now, and we need your help to protect children. Donate today here . Thank you!

Cool Leaders

BIG 3D printing 10,000 face shields a week

By Kai-Uwe Bergmann

BIG is now producing 10,000 face shields a week supplying much needed PPE to all our communities where we have offices. This effort spearheaded by BIGster Bernardo Shumacher a month ago has now involved dozens of BIGsters in a 24 hour 7 days a week operation.

All face shields are being donated to local hospitals and health care facilities as well as at risk citizens.

We will continue to contribute to this crowdsourcing effort within the architecture and maker communities as long as there is a need.

Cool Leaders

A letter from Greta

Greta Thunberg on Facebook:

Impostors, trademarks, commercial interests, royalties and foundation…

First: Unfortunately there are still people who are trying to impersonate me or falsely claim that they “represent” me in order to communicate with high profile people, politicians, media, artists etc. Please be aware that this is happening and be extremely suspicious if you are contacted by ”me” or someone saying they ”represent” me.
I apologize to anyone who has been contacted – and even misled – by this kind of behavior.

Second: My name and the #FridaysForFuture movement are constantly being used for commercial purposes without any consent whatsoever. It happens for instance in marketing, selling of products and people collecting money in my and the movement’s name.
That is why I’ve applied to register my name, Fridays For Future, Skolstrejk för klimatet etc as trademarks. This action is to protect the movement and its activities. It is also needed to enable my pro bono legal help to take necessary action against people or corporations etc who are trying to use me and the movement in purposes not in line with what the movement stands for. I assure you, I and the other school strikers have absolutely no interests in trademarks. But unfortunately it needs to be done.

Fridays For Future is a global movement founded by me. It belongs to anyone taking part in it, above all the young people. It can – and must – not be used for individual or commercial purposes.

And third: together with my family I’m setting up a foundation. It’s already registered and existing, but it not is not yet up and running. This is strictly nonprofit of course and there are no interests in philanthropy. It is just something that is needed for handling money (book royalties, donations, prize money etc) in a completely transparent way. For instance, taxes have to be paid before we can give them away to specified purposes and charities. This takes a lot of time and work, and when the foundation is fully up and running I will tell you more.
The foundation’s aim will be to promote ecological, climatic and social sustainability as well as mental health.

Love
Greta

Cool Leaders

What I hope the world and my life will look in 2030

By Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook:

Every new year of the last decade I set a personal challenge. My goal was to grow in new ways outside my day-to-day work running Facebook. These led me to learn Mandarin, code an AI assistant for my home, read more books, run a lot more, learn to hunt and cook, and get more comfortable with public speaking.

When I started these challenges, my life was almost all about building the Facebook website. (It was mostly a website at the time.) Now there’s so much more to learn from. At Facebook, we’re building lots of different apps and technology — ranging from a new private social platform to augmented and virtual reality — and we’re handling a lot more social responsibility. And outside Facebook, I’m a father now and I love spending time with my family, working on our philanthropy, and improving at the sports and hobbies I’ve picked up over the years. So while I’m glad I did annual challenges over the last decade, it’s time to do something different.

This decade I’m going to take a longer term focus. Rather than having year-to-year challenges, I’ve tried to think about what I hope the world and my life will look in 2030 so I can make sure I’m focusing on those things. By then, if things go well, my daughter Max will be in high school, we’ll have the technology to feel truly present with another person no matter where they are, and scientific research will have helped cure and prevent enough diseases to extend our average life expectancy by another 2.5 years. Here are some of the things that I think will be important in the next decade:

Generational Change

When I started Facebook, one of the reasons I cared about giving people a voice was that I thought it would empower my generation — which I felt had important things to say and weren’t being listened to enough. It turned out it wasn’t just my generation that felt marginalized and needed more voice though, and these tools have given power to lots of different groups across society. I’m glad more people have voice, but it hasn’t yet brought about the generational change in addressing important issues I had hoped for. I think that will happen this decade.

Today, many important institutions in our society still aren’t doing enough to address the issues younger generations face — from climate change to runaway costs of education, housing and healthcare. But as millennials and more members of younger generations can vote, I expect this to start changing rapidly. By the end of this decade, I expect more institutions will be run by millennials and more policies will be set to address these problems with longer term outlooks.

In many ways, Facebook is a millennial company with the issues of this generation in mind. At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, our focus is on very long term efforts that will primarily help our children’s generation, like investing in curing, preventing and managing all diseases in our children’s lifetimes, or making primary education more personalized to students needs. Over the next decade, we’ll focus more on funding and giving a platform to younger entrepreneurs, scientists, and leaders to enable these changes.

A New Private Social Platform

The internet gave us the superpower of being able to connect with anyone, anywhere. This is incredibly empowering and means that our relationships and opportunities are no longer confined to just where we live. We’re now part of a community with billions of people in it — with all the dynamism, culture and economic opportunity that brings.

But being part of such a large community creates its own challenges and makes us crave intimacy. When I grew up in a small town, it was easy to have a niche and sense of purpose. But with billions of people, it’s harder to find your unique role. For the next decade, some of the most important social infrastructure will help us reconstruct all kinds of smaller communities to give us that sense of intimacy again.

This is one of the areas of innovation I’m most excited about. Our digital social environments will feel very different over the next 5+ years, re-emphasizing private interactions and helping us build the smaller communities we all need in our lives.

Decentralizing Opportunity

In the last decade, the fastest growth in the economy has been in the tech industry. In the next decade, I expect technology will continue to create opportunity, but more through enabling all of the other parts of the economy to make better use of technology and grow even faster.

The area we’re most focused on is helping small businesses. Across our services, more than 140 million small businesses already reach customers — mostly for free. Today this takes the form of an entrepreneur setting up an account on Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp, and then either communicating with people for free or buying ads to get their message out more broadly. Over the next decade, we hope to build the commerce and payments tools so that every small business has easy access to the same technology that previously only big companies have had.

If we can make it so anyone can sell products through a storefront on Instagram, message and support their customers through Messenger, or send money home to another country instantly and at low cost through WhatsApp — that will go a long way towards creating more opportunity around the world. At the end of the day, a strong and stable economy comes from people succeeding broadly, and the best way to do that is to make it so small businesses can effectively become technology companies.

The Next Computing Platform

The technology platform of the 2010s was the mobile phone. The platform of the 2000s before that was about the web, and the 1990s was the desktop computer. Each computing platform becomes more ubiquitously accessible and natural for us to interact with. While I expect phones to still be our primary devices through most of this decade, at some point in the 2020s, we will get breakthrough augmented reality glasses that will redefine our relationship with technology.

Augmented and virtual reality are about delivering a sense of presence — the feeling that you’re right there with another person or in another place. Instead of having devices that take us away from the people around us, the next platform will help us be more present with each other and will help the technology get out of the way. Even though some of the early devices seem clunky, I think these will be the most human and social technology platforms anyone has built yet.

The ability to be “present” anywhere will also help us address some of the biggest social issues of our day — like ballooning housing costs and inequality of opportunity by geography. Today, many people feel like they have to move to cities because that’s where the jobs are. But there isn’t enough housing in many cities, so housing costs are skyrocketing while quality of living is decreasing. Imagine if you could live anywhere you chose and access any job anywhere else. If we deliver on what we’re building, this should be much closer to reality by 2030.

New Forms of Governance

One of the big questions for the next decade is: how should we govern the large new digital communities that the internet has enabled? Platforms like Facebook have to make tradeoffs on social values we all hold dear — like between free expression and safety, or between privacy and law enforcement, or between creating open systems and locking down data and access. It’s rare that there’s ever a clear “right” answer, and in many cases it’s as important that the decisions are made in a way that feels legitimate to the community. From this perspective, I don’t think private companies should be making so many important decisions that touch on fundamental democratic values.

One way to address this is through regulation. As long as our governments are seen as legitimate, rules established through a democratic process could add more legitimacy and trust than rules defined by companies alone. There are a number of areas where I believe governments establishing clearer rules would be helpful, including around elections, harmful content, privacy, and data portability. I’ve called for new regulation in these areas and over the next decade I hope we get clearer rules for the internet.

Another and perhaps even better way to address this is by establishing new ways for communities to govern themselves. An example of independent governance is the Oversight Board we’re creating. Soon you’ll be able to appeal content decisions you disagree with to an independent board that will have the final decision in whether something is allowed. This decade, I hope to use my position to establish more community governance and more institutions like this. If this is successful, it could be a model for other online communities in the future.

We’ve got a lot to do this decade and there’s a lot to learn to help make this all happen. I hope your new year and new decade are off to a good start. Here’s to a great 2020s.

Cool Leaders

Facebook now have more than 35,000 people working on safety and security

By Mark Zuckerberg

We just shared our community update and quarterly results. Here’s what I said on our earnings call.

Before we get started, I want to talk about the announcement we just shared that Sue Desmond-Hellmann is leaving our board to focus on her health and other commitments. Sue has been a wonderful and thoughtful voice on our board for six years, and I’m deeply personally grateful for everything she has done for this company.

This was a good quarter for our community and our business. There are now around 2.8 billion people using Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger each month, and around 2.2 billion people using at least one of our services daily. The Facebook app had a particularly strong quarter, including in the US and Canada. We also recently released that we estimate that more than 140 million businesses, mostly small businesses, are using our services each month to grow, create jobs and become social hubs in their communities.

This has been a busy quarter on a lot of fronts.

We’ve launched a number of new exciting products, like Facebook Dating in the US, which is doing quite well, Threads for Instagram, a camera-first experience to share with your close friends, Facebook News, our dedicated product for news that we’ve built in partnership with news publishers, and we introduced Horizon, a new social experience for VR. We also released hand-tracking technology for Oculus and Oculus Link so your Quest is basically now a Rift too. We’re making progress building out the private social platform across WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct. And we have multiple exciting initiatives around commerce and payments that are moving forward, from Marketplace to Instagram Shopping to payments in WhatsApp and continuing our discussions on Libra.

This has also been a busy quarter on the policy and social issues front. We formally entered into a settlement with the FTC to make structural changes and build a rigorous privacy program that will set a new standard for our industry. We’re about a year out now from the 2020 elections and we just announced that the systems we’ve built are now so advanced that we’ve proactively identified and removed multiple foreign interference campaigns coming from Russia and Iran. And we’ve found ourselves in the middle of the debate about what political speech is acceptable in the upcoming campaigns.

But today I want to focus on talking about principles. Because from a business perspective, it might be easier for us to choose a different path than the one we’re taking. So I want to make sure everyone is clear about what we stand for, and why we’re making some of the decisions we’re making.

I gave a speech a couple weeks ago about the importance of standing for voice and free expression. I believe strongly — and I believe that history supports — that free expression has been important for driving progress and building more inclusive societies around the world, that at times of social tension there has often been urge to pull back on free expression, and that we will be best served over the long term by resisting this urge and defending free expression.

Today is certainly a historical moment of social tension, and I view an important role of our company as defending free expression.

Now this has never been absolute and of course we take our responsibility to prevent harm very seriously too. I think we invest more in getting harmful content off our services than any other company in the world. Those who follow us closely know that we have more than 35,000 people working on safety and security, and that our budget for this work is billions of dollars a year — more than the whole revenue of our company at the time of our IPO earlier this decade. And we’re going to keep on investing more here. But while we work hard to remove content that can cause real danger, I think we also need to be careful about adopting more and more rules that restrict the way that people can speak and what they can say.

Right now, the content debate is about political ads. Should we block political ads with false statements? Should we block all political ads? Google, YouTube and most internet platforms run these same ads, most cable networks run these same ads, and of course national broadcasters are required by law to run them by FCC regulations. I think there are good reasons for this. In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news. And although I’ve considered whether we should not carry these ads in the past, and I’ll continue to do so, on balance so far I’ve thought we should continue. Ads can be an important part of voice — especially for candidates and advocacy groups the media might not otherwise cover so they can get their message into debates. And it’s hard to define where to draw the line. Would we really block ads for important political issues like climate change or women’s empowerment? Instead, I believe the better approach is to work to increase transparency. Ads on Facebook are already more transparent than anywhere else. We have a political ads archive so anyone can scrutinize every ad that’s run — you can see every message, who saw it, how much was spent — something that no TV or print media does.

Since this is an earnings call, I want to talk about the business impact of all this.

Some people accuse us of allowing this speech because they think all we care about is making money. That’s wrong. I can assure you, from a business perspective, the controversy this creates far outweighs the very small percent of our business that these political ads make up. We estimate these ads from politicians will be less than 0.5% of our revenue next year. That’s not why we’re doing this. To put this in perspective, the FTC fine that these same critics said wouldn’t be enough to change our incentives was more than 10x bigger than this. The reality is that we believe deeply that political speech is important and should be able to be heard, and that’s what’s driving us.

Other people say this policy is a part of a broader pattern of us building a system that incentivizes inflammatory content to fuel our business. Again, to the contrary, I think we’ve done more than any of the other major internet platforms to try to build positive incentives into our systems. We don’t let any of our News Feed or Instagram Feed teams set goals around increasing time spent on our services. We rank feeds to encourage meaningful social interactions — helping people connect with friends, family and their communities. We have real people come in and tell us what content they saw that was most meaningful to them and sparked valuable discussions, and then we build systems to try to surface that kind of content. We’ve taken many steps over the years to fight clickbait and polarization, and now we’re even testing removing like counts in Instagram and Facebook. We do this because we know that if we help people have meaningful interactions, they’ll find our services more valuable and that’s the key to building something sustainable and growing over time.

Last year, you probably remember we made a series of changes that emphasized friends and family and reduced time spent on our services. One change removed 50 million hours of viral video watching a day. We did this knowing it would mean people spend a lot less time on our apps — which is not what you do if you’re just prioritizing engagement over everything else. I take getting these incentives right very seriously and we’re willing to make huge sacrifices in the short term to do what we think is right and will be better over time.

Finally, some people say this is just all a cynical political calculation and that we’re acting in a way we don’t believe because we’re just trying to appease conservatives. That’s wrong too. We face a lot of criticism from both progressives and conservatives. Frankly, if our goal were trying to make either side happy, then we’re not doing a very good job because I’m pretty sure everyone is frustrated with us. Our values on voice and free expression are not partisan. But unfortunately, in our current environment, a lot of people look at every decision through the lens of whether it’s going to help or hurt the candidate they want in winning their next election.

A lot of people have told us: you’ve got to pick a side, or else both sides are going to cause a lot of problems for you. Sadly, from a practical perspective, they may be right. But we can’t make decisions that way. Over the next year of campaigns, we’re going to be at the center of the debate anytime there’s content or policies on any of our services that people believe could advantage or disadvantage their side. This may lead to more investigations, and the candidates are going to criticize us.

I expect that this is going to be a very tough year. We try to do what we think is right, but we’re not going to get everything right. This is complex stuff and anyone who says the answers are simple hasn’t thought long enough about all the nuances and downstream challenges.

I get that some people will disagree with our decisions. I get that some people will think our decisions may have a negative impact on things they really care about. But I don’t think anyone can say we’re not doing what we believe, or that we haven’t thought hard about these issues.

I could be wrong, but my experience running this company so far has been that if we do what we believe is right, even when it’s unpopular for years at a time — then eventually it has worked out best for our community and for our business too.

There’s a lot at stake here. We are at a cross-roads not only in our own country, but in the future of the global internet as well. China is building its own internet and media ecosystem that’s focused on very different values. As these systems compete, the question of which nation’s values will determine what speech is allowed for decades to come really puts into perspective the issues we face today. Because while we may disagree on exactly where to draw the line on specific issues, we at least can disagree. That’s what free expression is about.

Voice and expression have been important for progress throughout history. They’ve been important in the fight for democracy worldwide. And I believe that voice and free expression are an important part of the path forward today, and that’s why our company will continue standing for these principles.

As always, I am grateful for all of your support in everything that we do — and that’s especially true today. In addition to these challenges, there are a lot of great things going on that I’m incredibly proud of and excited about, and I’m glad that our community and business trends continue heading in a good direction.

Cool Leaders

Introducing the Facebook Independent Oversight Board

By Mark Zuckerberg

One of the most important projects I’ve worked on over the past couple of years is establishing an independent Oversight Board that our community can appeal to on some of the hardest questions about what content is allowed on our services. Today we’re publishing the board’s charter which articulates how it will operate and uphold its duty to protect free expression for our community. Below is a letter I wrote to go along with the charter and discuss why I think this is important.

Facebook is built to give people a voice. Free expression is fundamental to who we are as a company, just as it is to a free, inclusive and democratic society. We believe the more people who have the power to express themselves, the more progress our society makes together. We want to make sure our products and policies support this.

We also recognize that there are times when people use their voice to endanger others. That’s why we have Community Standards to articulate what is and isn’t allowed on our platforms. When we enforce these policies, we follow a set of values — authenticity, safety, privacy, and dignity — guided by international human rights standards. Our commitment to free expression is paramount, but we still need to keep people safe and take down harmful content.

We are responsible for enforcing our policies every day and we make millions of content decisions every week. But ultimately I don’t believe private companies like ours should be making so many important decisions about speech on our own. That’s why I’ve called for governments to set clearer standards around harmful content. It’s also why we’re now giving people a way to appeal our content decisions by establishing the independent Oversight Board.

If someone disagrees with a decision we’ve made, they can appeal to us first, and soon they will be able to further appeal to this independent board. The board’s decision will be binding, even if I or anyone at Facebook disagrees with it. The board will use our values to inform its decisions and explain its reasoning openly and in a way that protects people’s privacy.

The board will be an advocate for our community — supporting people’s right to free expression, and making sure we fulfill our responsibility to keep people safe. As an independent organization, we hope it gives people confidence that their views will be heard, and that Facebook doesn’t have the ultimate power over their expression. Just as our Board of Directors keeps Facebook accountable to our shareholders, we believe the Oversight Board can do the same for our community.

Over the past year, we’ve gotten feedback from experts around the world on what this board should look like. We’ve researched similar bodies, released a draft charter, run a public consultation process, engaged in workshops and published a summary of the feedback. This charter reflects much of what we’ve heard, and it gives answers to some of the biggest questions we’ve been considering: How should board members be selected? How do we protect their independence from Facebook but also make sure they’re committed to our principles? How do people petition the board? How does the board decide which cases to hear?

In this charter, Facebook is making several commitments to the board. We’re committing to implement the board’s content decisions and taking action regarding its advisory opinions on our policies. We’re committing to preserving and protecting the board’s ability to exercise its independent judgement. And we’re committing to providing the board with the information and resources it needs to make informed decisions.

This charter brings us another step closer to establishing the board, but there is a lot of work still ahead. We expect the board will only hear a small number of cases at first, but over time we hope it will expand its scope and potentially include more companies across the industry as well.

Building institutions that protect free expression and online communities is important for the future of the internet. I’m looking forward to seeing how the board evolves. Thank you to everyone who has given their time, effort and energy to this project to help get it right.

You can read the full charter here.