Facebook's $100 Million Gift Precedes Movie Release

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear on Oprah Friday to announce a gift of $100 million for the public schools in Newark, New Jersey. This announcement coincides with the release of The Social Network, a blockbuster movie that paints a less than complimentary picture of Zuckerberg as he worked to create Facebook.


This week, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg seems as ubiquitous as the social network that he founded. Forbes magazine ranked him as the 35th wealthiest American with a net worth of $6.9 billion. Today, he appears on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" to announce a $100 million gift to public schools in Newark, New Jersey. And next week, a new movie, "The Social Network" comes out, depicting the creation of Facebook.

NPR's David Folkenflik is wondering about the connection between these events.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Not to dismiss the importance of Zuckerberg's gift - and other reporters are covering that for us - but how better to change the subject than with a nine-figure philanthropic gesture?

In the movie version of his life, Zuckerberg is portrayed as unscrupulous on his route to his billions, and - despite his service based on friending and likes - utterly unable to connect to others. Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg, here appealing to a friend.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Social Network")

Mr. JESSE EISENBERG (Actor): (As Mark Zuckerberg) I need you.

Unidentified Man (Actor): I'm here for you.

Mr. EISENBERG: No, I need the algorithm used to run chess players.

Unidentified Man: Are you OK?

Mr. EISENBERG: We're ranking girls.

Unidentified Man: You mean other students?


Unidentified Man: Do you think this is such a good idea?

Mr. EISENBERG: I need the algorithm.

Unidentified Man: All right.

Mr. EISENBERG: I need the algorithm.

FOLKENFLIK: Showing up to talk on "Oprah" is image rehab 101, but it could misfire. Here's what happened when Lesley Stahl compared Zuckerberg to the founders of Google.

Ms. LESLEY STAHL (Television Journalist): You seem to be replacing Larry and Sergey as the people out here who everyone's talking about. You're just staring at me.

Mr. MARK ZUCKERBERG (Founder of Facebook): Is that a question?

FOLKENFLIK: The real question is how much he'll be remembered as an online entrepreneur and philanthropist, and how much for the movie version of his rise.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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