Zuckerberg sues Hawaiians

SUBHEAD: Mark Zuckerberg sues to keep local landowners off right-of-way through his 700 acre Kauai estate.

By Maya Kosoff on 19 January  2017 for Vanity Fair -

Image above: Mark Zuckerberg and his wife on either side of young woman surfer on Kauai. From (http://usuncut.com/news/mark-zuckerberg-suing-force-native-hawaiians-off-ancestral-land-build-island-resort/).

The Facebook billionaire isn’t exactly endearing himself to his neighbors.
Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of the world’s largest social network, would just like some privacy.

In the past year alone, the 32-year-old billionaire spent $30 million to buy up the four homes surrounding his Palo Alto abode, only to demolish them, and later built a six-foot-tall wall around his 700-acre plot of land in Hawaii, to the chagrin of his Kilauean neighbors.

Now, Zuckerberg is seeking additional peace and quiet, this time by filing a series of lawsuits against several hundred people—some of whom are dead—who own or have claims to the land Zuckerberg purchased on the island of Kauai for more than $100 million in 2014.

Last year, onstage at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, Zuckerberg decried the isolationism sweeping the country, taking an unsubtle jab at a certain presidential candidate’s plan to wall off Mexico from the United States. “I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others,” he intoned. “Instead of building walls, we can build bridges.”

Those words apparently don’t apply to Zuckerberg, who reportedly wants to create a secluded sanctuary where he will have exclusive rights to every one of its 700 acres.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which first reported the news on Wednesday, Zuckerberg has filed a set of lawsuits with Hawaii's state Circuit Court, seeking to identify the owners of land on his property, so that he may force a sale of those properties.

The Star-Advertiser reports that nearly 300 people could claim ancestral ownership of small pieces of land on Zuckerberg’s property, and Zuckerberg’s legal team has spent a year and a half trying to identify those individuals.
There are about a dozen small pieces of land contained within Zuckerberg’s enormous estate that are owned by other people, the Star-Advertiser reports. These native Hawaiian families currently have the right to “traverse the billionaire’s otherwise private domain.”

But because of Hawaii’s “quiet title” law, Zuckerberg may be able to appear before a judge, who will determine rightful land ownership. The land can ultimately be auctioned off if co-owners can’t agree to terms, in which case, Zuckerberg, who made almost $5 billion in the first two weeks of the year, could easily buy them out.

On Thursday, Zuckerberg posted a statement on Facebook in response to what he called “misleading” stories about the lawsuits. “To find all these partial owners so we can pay them their fair share, we filed what is called a ’quiet title’ action,” Zuckerberg said. “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 long time 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.”
The lawsuits come at an odd time for Zuckerberg. The young Facebook C.E.O. has been meticulous about his own self-image, hiring a professional photographer and employing a team of about a dozen people to comb through and delete negative comments from his Facebook posts. He’s also remained largely apolitical, even as he has fueled speculation about his political ambitions.

He has pledged to donate the vast majority of his wealth to his own philanthropic organization, and recently hired a prominent White House alum to help run it. He has defended keeping Trump donor and surrogate  

Peter Thiel on Facebook’s board, and after the election said on Facebook that he was feeling “hopeful” about the future. The incoming president, he noted diplomatically, reminded him of “all the work ahead of us to create the world we want for our children.”
Even so, he can’t help but to be drawn into the muck himself. When Zuckerberg tried to depoliticize Facebook’s news feed last year, by replacing its human editorial team with an algorithm, Facebook only endured more criticism as hoax and fake political news stories filled up users’ feeds.

Zuckerberg’s recent plan to fight fake news—empowering users to flag misleading stories and enlisting third-party fact-checkers to provide additional context—only generated more controversy. Conservatives accused Facebook of censorship, with the Daily Caller, among other conservative outlets, dismissing Facebook’s fact-checkers as “liberal.”
Still, Zuckerberg is treading lightly, and working diligently to expand his coalition. On Tuesday night, Facebook threw an inauguration party in Washington, D.C. with the Daily Caller, which was sponsored by the oil giant BP.

Zuckerberg recently began a 50-state talking tour, making his first stop in Texas this week, where he met police officers, pressed hands, and helped build a community garden.

The resulting photos looked campaign-ready, if and when Zuckerberg is ready to exercise the new clause in his contract that will allow him retain control of Facebook if he takes a leave of absence to serve in a government position or office.

Suing to keep native Hawaiians off his 700-acre estate, however, suggests Zuckerberg still has a ways to go before he’s campaign-ready himself.

As Donald Trump knows, there’s a fine line between being a man of the people and appearing out of touch.
This story has been updated to include a statement from Mark Zuckerberg.

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