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Facebook Founder Responds to Accusations that He’s a Big, Bad Neighbor on Kaua‘i

Mark Zuckerberg is suing kama‘āina Kaua‘i families to restrict access to his 700-acre beachfront property. Here’s why he says he’s not a bad guy.


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Editor’s note: On Friday, Jan. 27, Mark Zuckerberg announced via a story published in the The Garden Island newspaper that he and his wife were dropping their quiet title actions and will work together with the community on a new approach.

 

Mark Zuckerberg

Photos: Courtesy of Mark Zuckerberg

 

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to—where else—Facebook today to defend himself against a torrent of criticism from angry Hawai‘i residents.

 

The outrage was sparked after the initial news on Wednesday, Jan.18, that he was filing lawsuits against several kama‘āina families on Kaua‘i who have kuleana land access rights to parcels within the 700-acre beachfront property Zuckerberg bought two years ago.

 

The suits, if successful, would force the families to sell their parcels to the highest bidder at a public court auction, allowing Zuckerberg to completely restrict access to his property. As you might have guessed, Hawai‘i had thoughts on this. Many outraged residents on social media called for Zuckerberg to get out of Hawai‘i, and accused him of being a bad neighbor and insensitive to Hawaiian culture and ancestral lands. National and international news media picked up the story and ran with it, not necessarily accurately—adding to the furor.

 

Mark Zuckerberg wife Kauai

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, in Kaua‘i.

 

Today, Zuckerberg gave his side, with a written statement posted his Facebook profile, saying he wanted to clear up what he called “misleading stories” about the lawsuits. He made the case that his interest in the Kauai land is personal to him and his family, and that his intentions are genuine. “We want to create a home on the island, and help preserve the wildlife and natural beauty,” he wrote.

 

His take on the lawsuits themselves:

 

“As part of Hawaiian history, in the mid-1800s, small parcels were granted to families, which after generations might now be split among hundreds of descendants. There aren’t always clear records, and in many cases descendants who own 1/4% or 1% of a property dont even know they are entitled to anything. To find all these partial owners so we can pay them their fair share, we filed what is called a quiet title action. For most of these folks, they will now receive money for something they never even knew they had. No one will be forced off the land.

 

We are working with a professor of native Hawaiian studies and longtime member of this community, who is participating in this quiet title process with us. It is important to us that we respect Hawaiian history and traditions.”

 

You can read the entire statement here: 

Will it be enough to mollify Hawaiians and Hawai‘i residents who want to kick Zuckerberg out of their community? Or will he continue to be pilloried? Guess we’ll be finding out soon enough on our Facebook feeds.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY MICHAEL KEANY

 

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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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