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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tells N.C. A&T students that tech sector needs more diversity

Zuckerberg also wants to fight fake news ‘the way we fight against spam’

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, held an hourlong town hall at North Carolina A&T State University this week during which he addressed diversity in the tech industry, fake news and the importance of Facebook Live as a tool for transparency.

“Today, I think a lot of the biggest opportunities or problems that we face are not just ones that we can solve on a local level or national level, but at real things that we need to increasingly be able to come together as a world to solve,” Zuckerberg said Monday.

“You think about things like global warming or pandemic disease … but these are global challenges and opportunities that we have to spread freedom, to end poverty, to grow economic prosperity around the world.”

Many students wanted to know his thoughts on diversifying the technology workforce.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that the tech community and industry has an issue with diversity,” Zuckerberg said. “Frankly, I think that’s our problem to figure out, I think that responsibility rests on us.”

Despite recruiting incentives, Facebook has made little progress in closing the diversity gap on its staff, according to The Wall Street Journal and CNN. But the problem confounds the entire industry.

“I do believe that we have a responsibility to do our best to help build infrastructure that helps people come together,” Zuckerberg said. “I don’t think it’s a secret that the tech community and industry has an issue with diversity.”

​Many in the audience were concerned about “’fake news,” a charge that has been leveled against social media sites such as Facebook since before the 2016 presidential election.

“Misinformation is a big issue. It just doesn’t affect Facebook, it affects a lot of news sources,” Zuckerberg said. “We could fight against hoaxes the way we fight against spam.”

​He is excited about Facebook Live, especially the role it has played in helping provide proof of social unrest and abuse.

​“We believe a lot in transparency, giving people a voice. If we are not going to give them a body camera, then we can give everyone a live camera,” Zuckerberg said. “Transparency is what Facebook is about, putting the power in people’s hands and giving everyone a voice to share what’s important. And there is certainly a lot of injustice that now you talk about it, and a lot of people deny it, but you put it on camera and they can’t deny it anymore.”

​Students were pleased with the opportunity to hear Zuckerberg.

“The experience was very enlightening. He was very down to earth and transparent,” said senior speech language pathology student Crystal Cox. “He answered our questions very honestly and gave us insight, especially to our engineering students who look forward to possibly working with Facebook in the future.”

Chancellor Harold Martin said that creating opportunities for senior executives of major corporations and global leaders to engage with students is part of N.C. A&T’s strategy.

“We want our graduates to see themselves as big thinkers, leaders and focus on global issues so that they cannot just ask smart questions, but frame in their mind how they see themselves being a part of the solution or being successful in their community,” Martin said.

Donovan Dooley is a former Rhoden Fellow and a multimedia journalism major from Tuscaloosa, AL. He attends North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University.