In a speech on Saturday at the United Nations Private Sector Forum, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg pledged Internet access for refugee camps as a way to help them keep in touch with their families and get support from aid agencies. Zuckerberg said his powerful social site will work together with the UN to make the Internet available to those who otherwise wouldn't be able to use it.
To an audience of government leaders and business executives, the 31-year-old CEO hailed Internet access as "an enabler of human rights" and a "force for peace." The forum was intended to encourage private sector cooperation in advancing the UN General Assembly's ambitious global development goals.
But he also conceded that it was for his company's benefit, too. "It's not all altruism," he reportedly said later in the day, in a hint that Facebook, too, will gain from having more users. "We all benefit when we are more connected." Zuckerberg did not lay out a plan of how and when Facebook will to carry this out.
The speech coincides with his New York Times op-ed co-written with U2 singer and activist Bono about the importance of connecting the world via the Internet. The opinion piece touched on how the Internet is affecting the conversation around the refugee crisis, too.
Part of the opinion piece read:
In the last few weeks, we've watched desperate refugees seek shelter on the frontiers of Europe. Smartphones have made it possible for those left behind to communicate with loved ones across checkpoints and razor wire. The Internet connected our world in shared grief as a Syrian child's death on a beach in Turkey came to symbolize every refugee. Social media carried the message and changed not just popular opinion but public policy.
Over the past few years, Facebook's Internet.org initiative has been working to bring the Internet to billions of people, but came under fire for allegedly violating net neutrality rules.
Cover image via Justin Sullivan / Getty Image News