Technology

MENLO PARK, Calif, – Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has announced a new personal challenge for the new year that is fuelling speculation that he plans to enter politics.

In previous years, he has run 365 miles, built a simple home AI, read 25 books and learnt Mandarin. Now the CEO of social media giant Facebook has revealed his 2017 challenge. He plans to visit and chat with people in every US state by the end of 2017.

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“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”.

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 has 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 harbor 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.

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Much like a candidate grooming himself for office, Mr Zuckerberg has travelled the globe meeting world leaders, 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”.

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”.

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Mr. Zuckerberg 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 and seven times 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.

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.

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Zuckerberg’s self-improvement challenges

2017: Visit and meet with people from every state in the U.S. by the end of 2017

2016: Run 365 miles, and design an AI assistant to help automate tasks in his home

2015: Read a new book every other week

2014: Write one thoughtful thank-you note every day

2013: Meet a new person outside of Facebook every day

2012: Code every day

2011: Only eat animals he kills himself

2010: Learn Mandarin

2009: Wear a tie to work every day

Zuckerberg claims this 2017 challenge will help him at Facebook and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative set up with his wife “so we can make the most positive impact as the world enters an important new period.”

Courtesy: Daily Mail