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Facebook's Season of Atonement Is Here

Saturday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg marked the occasion with a remarkably contrite post to his followers: “For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better. For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better.”

Zuck’s uncharacteristic self-humbling reminds me of the regular expressions of regret by Asian technology executives. Long gone is Zuckerberg’s pugnacious assertion that it was a “pretty crazy idea” that the social network had been weaponized as a purveyor of misinformation and fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Under intensive scrutiny by both houses of Congress and special counselor Robert Mueller, Facebook is now in full retreat. For Zuckerberg, this is turning into the season of atonement.