Buzz grows over potential Mark Zuckerberg presidential bid

HOW does ‘Mark Zuckerberg, leader of the free world’ sound?

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Could Mark Zuckerberg become America’s youngest president? Picture: Steven Senne

HOW does ‘Mark Zuckerberg, leader of the free world’ sound?

It’s a question being debated online with increasing gusto as speculation grows about a potential presidential bid by the Facebook boss as early as 2020.

Despite his denials on more than one occasion, the social media mogul hasn’t been able to quash the Zuckerberg-wants-to-be-president meme.

The theory really kicked off in January after the Facebook founder announced his personal challenge to visit the 30 US states he had never been to before. Sounds suspiciously like a campaign trail, right? As he visited factory workers, farmers and military graveyards across America, that’s certainly what some in the media thought.

It didn’t help that an unsealed court document revealed that a month before announcing the tour, Mr Zuckerberg attempted to restructure Facebook stock to allow him to retain voting control if he served in government for two years, or indefinitely with a few stipulations.

Around the same time he publicly said that he no longer considers himself an atheist, and “religion is very important.” The US has quite famously never had a publicly atheist president, although an argument could be made that Trump has also broken that mould.

Ostensibly, Mark Zuckerberg says the national tour is an opportunity “to get out of my little bubble in San Francisco” and meet the American people. The people he meets, he says, will help him in guiding the future of Facebook and his philanthropic foundation.

Along the way he documented his travels meeting with ordinary Americans (read: people who aren’t billionaires) with cheesy photos and musings about what he learned from them.

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Mark Zuckerberg toured America meeting ordinary people like this totally natural meeting.Source:Facebook

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Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla. “It’s struck me over the past few days how much our history is still part of our every day life. Black and white families living in the same town together in Mississippi are likely descendants of slaves or those who held slaves generations ago,” he wrote alongside this picture.Source:Facebook

However the cynics among us would quickly note the middle-of-the-road and politically safe nature of the posts addressed to his more than 94 million Facebook followers (Donald Trump has 23 million).

After meeting a group of North Dakota workers involved with the controversial method of extracting natural gas known as fracking, Mr Zuckerberg — who is staunch advocate for Climate Change action — wrote: “Regardless of your views on energy, I think you’ll find the community around this fascinating.”

As Wired noted: “Zuckerberg’s posts could be a b-school class in corporate equivocation. It takes hard work to write that much, yet reveal so little.”

Sounds like politics 101.

However there are plenty of reasons to perform such an obvious PR exercise that don’t involve running for public office. At the top of the list is shoring up trust among Facebook’s 2 billion users which is absolutely vital if they’re going to keep sharing their lives and information on the website, which is after all the company’s lifeblood.

Facebook has been trying to repair its image after recent scandals prompted accusations the company was deliberately filtering out right-wing news content from its site. The social media giant has also had to defend itself against assertions it’s been largely responsible for the spread of fake news.

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Mark Zuckerberg connecting with the youth via his Instagram stories, because everyone knows Instagram is cooler than Facebook.Source:Facebook

Mr Zuckerberg has consistently denied he is plotting a presidential run but than again, such denials are pretty standard among those harbouring political aspirations.

“Some of you have asked if this challenge means I’m running for public office. I’m not,” he wrote in May. “I’m doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we’re best serving our community of almost 2 billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.”

Although when he does things like hire Barack Obama’s former White House photographer, eyebrows are inevitably raised.

Last week, the 33-year-old — who has an estimated wealth of $88 billion — added fuel to the fire of speculation by hiring Hillary Clinton’s former chief strategist, Joel Benenson. He also tapped a former assistant press secretary for President Obama and a press secretary for former vice president Joe Biden to work for his charity foundation. These moves have all given the media something to talk about.

Tech website Recode, co-founded by Sillicon Valley insider Kara Swisher, has since published a guide on where “the would-be presidential candidate” stands on the big issues of the day.

Meanwhile Politico has published a guide to the four things Mark Zuckerberg must to do if his hypothetical presidential bid is going to be a success.

Of course there are some who believe a Zuckerberg presidential run makes little sense and would be too risky for his social media empire. In the highly partisan world of US politics, it’s easy to imagine Facebook users who don’t agree with his politics departing from the site en masse.

There’s also the question of whether he has the charm to pull off such a move. In fact a recent poll showed the Facebook founder is not a particularly well known figure in the US, with 47 per cent of voters saying they have no opinion about him. Twenty-four per cent said they had a positive opinion of him while 29 per cent said they had a negative one.

Mind you, Facebook arguably has better data than such polls. For a long time Facebook has been quietly pitching itself to politicians as a valuable difference maker in election campaigns by offering up the power it derives from consumer data and its ability to influence — and it’s not unthinkable that the Harvard dropout might want to harness that power for his own run at the White House one day.

He may not be running for president any time soon but if he ever does, Mark Zuckerberg is surely better positioned than most.

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Article Buzz grows over potential Mark Zuckerberg presidential bid compiled by www.news.com.au