Is Zuckerberg willing to act boldly to fix Facebook?
As questions mounted last year about whether Facebook had been exploited to tilt the U.S. presidential election, Mark Zuckerberg landed on a fishing trawler off Alabama's Gulf coast.
But the chatter surrounding the CEO's arrival in port was that it signaled something bigger than just the start of a 30-state personal tour: his designs on a job even more powerful than leading the social network that links 2.2 billion people worldwide.
"I asked him if he was interested in running for president of the United States," said Dominick Ficarino, who owns a shrimp business in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, and hosted Zuckerberg that afternoon. "And his answer to me was: 'Can I answer you with a question? If you were me, would you?"'
Thirteen months later, Zuckerberg no longer has the luxury of mulling a hypothetical next act. Instead, he is grappling with a crisis that has enveloped the company synonymous with his face and name. It does not help that the most glaring reminder of Facebook's flaws is the unabated uproar over the American presidency itself.
"The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do," Zuckerberg wrote in January, laying out his annual "personal challenge."
In 2017, the billionaire sought to travel to every state he'd never visited. This year, Zuckerberg said his personal goal is to "fix" Facebook.
Yet things continue to get worse. Scrutiny of Facebook has intensified following reports that it failed to prevent the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica from amassing personal information about millions of users possibly used to aid Donald Trump's campaign and that the social network has been collecting Android users' phone call and text message histories without notice. That adds to criticism that Facebook manipulates its users and has allowed Russian bots to divide Americans by spreading false information.
On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission announced it was investigating Facebook for its privacy practices.
Zuckerberg preaches transparency, but flinches at questioning. He is undeniably brilliant, but stubborn about acknowledging the extent of Facebook's problems.
Is he prepared to do all it will take the right the ship?
"If he fails to do it, it may take a while but eventually people are going to rebel," said Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor and adviser who has become a pointed critic.
"I thought Facebook was a force for good in the world for a really long time," McNamee said. "I think it's really hard to make that case today."
Days after Trump's election, Zuckerberg was pressed on the possibility that foreign agents had used his social network to divide voters.
"The idea that fake news on Facebook ... influenced the election in any way, I think, is a pretty crazy idea," the CEO said at a technology conference.