Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Zuckerberg to give away $45 billion

Hot on the heels of the news of a Saudi prince's vow to give $32 billion to charity (see a previous post of mine), come the news that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is to give away 99% of his fortune to charity, in honour of his new daughter, Max (short for, yes, Maxima).
The donation will amount to about $45 billion, based on today's prices, and it will be channelled though the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, over the course of Zuckerberg's and his wife Priscilla Chan's lives. His immediate plan is to sell or gift no more than $1bn of Facebook stock each year for the next three years, and he has indicated that intends to retain his majority voting position in the company, at least for the foreseeable future.
The intention of this outrageously huge donation is supposedly to make the world a better place for Max to grow up in. The remit of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is described as "to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation". This encompasses the rather vague goals of personalised learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities. One major plank of it "will come from giving everyone access to the internet". Ah, right...
Critics, and there are always critics, argue that, for the sake of his karma, Zuckerberg needs to do something to atone for the damage to "human potential" and "equality" already perpetrated by his huge and pervasive Facebook organization - the gathering and selling of untold amounts of data, insufficient harassment and reporting policies that allow for online abuse, the employment of just 50 black people out of a staff of 10,000 (68% of whom are male), the gentrification of Silicon Valley which puts accommodation out of the reach of locals, etc, etc. Some say that this is just another example of the "white savior industrial complex".
Sour grapes, maybe, but an element of truth nonetheless. Although much of what Mr. Zuckerberg does is self-serving, and this latest gesture may be also to some extent, it is really difficult to carp at such magnanimity. Also, if it encourages/pressurizes other one-percenters to get in touch with their philanthropic side, then this cannot be a bad thing.
And, in case you were concerned, even giving away 99% of his holdings will still leave Zuckerberg with hundreds of millions of dollars for his day-to-day expenses.

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