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Facebook's Zuckerberg: Making philanthropy cool?

Pete Cashmore
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to donate $100 Million to the Newark public school system.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to donate $100 Million to the Newark public school system.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Facebook CEO expected to donate $100 million to Newark school system
  • "The Social Network," a movie about Facebook's origins, hits theaters October 1
  • 26 year-old Zuckerberg could make philanthropy cool among the tech set

(CNN) -- This Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show to announce a $100 million donation to the Newark public school system.

Skeptics might question the timing of the move, but it would be foolish to underestimate the significance of the gesture -- not only in its direct impact on public schools, but in its lasting imprint upon the technology industry. Zuckerberg's donation should be praised, as it will likely provide inspiration to the growing ranks of newly-minted technology founders.

The date of the announcement is bound to fuel some cynicism. The Social Network, the much-hyped movie about Facebook's origins, has its general release on October 1.

According to All Things D's Peter Kafka, the production frames Zuckerberg in a poor light: "the film portrays him as an insecure jerk who screws over people and becomes a much-richer insecure jerk", writes Kafka.

And while the accuracy of that depiction may be questioned in technology circles, the general public won't be privy to the debate over the film's "complicated" relationship with the facts. Thus, it would be easy to take a cynical view of Zuckerberg's generosity, framing it as a public relations move intended to preempt the movie's release.

Video: Zuckerberg friends Newark schools
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But there's a more optimistic viewpoint to be taken: As web technology continues to create dozens of young millionaires each year, 26 year-old Zuckerberg could make philanthropy cool among the tech set.

Admittedly, technology and philanthropy aren't distant cousins: Bill Gates is not only one of the world's most famous technologists, but also one of our most notable philanthropists.

And yet Gates has followed a well-trodden path: Spend your youth getting rich, and your retirement giving it away. Zuckerberg puts a fresh face to philanthropy, and he may pave a different road for young technologists: To embrace charitable giving early in life.

Very few twenty-something web entrepreneurs are likely to amass a of $6.9 billion, but what if it became the norm for tech founders to celebrate an acquisition or IPO with a charitable gift? Regardless of motives, Zuckerberg may set a welcome precedent.

[TECH: NEWSPULSE]

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