Mark Zuckerberg, who has recently been mired in a swirling controversy over his brainchild’s policies to retain political adverts on the platform, entered the limelight yet again as he led the 2020 Breakthrough Prize ceremony in Silicon Valley on Sunday night.
Commonly referred to as “the Oscars of Science", the event, held at NASA Ames Research Centre in Mountain View, California, awarded over $20 million to recognise breakthrough achievements in science and mathematics this year, and is sponsored by Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, along with Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Chinese tech giant Ma Huateng, and a number of other entrepreneurs.
It was Zuckerberg who kicked off the ceremony alongside Milner, who told the audience that the show aired live on National Geographic and YouTube is “about honouring this important work and the power science has to reveal hidden worlds”, adding that “we all know that the future depends on science".
“As a culture, our progress and prosperity depend on attaching a high value to science and on passing that value onto the next generation," the famed entrepreneur and engineer rounded off.
The star-studded event, which is in its 8th year, also saw Drew Barrymore, Allison Janney, and Edward Norton take part, coupled with a performance by Lenny Kravitz.
The latter had his say in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet before the award show:
"I think it’s also very important to inspire young people who want to get into the sciences. There’s so much pushing kids to go in so many other directions, whether it be sports or be Hollywood — in music, acting — but we need as much help as we can. We live in a world where we need great solutions for great problems", Kravitz shared inspiringly.
However, the night’s biggest gems were the honorees themselves, which included the Event Horizon Telescope Team, who took the first-ever photo of a black hole, winning the Breakthrough Prize in fundamental physics. Jeffrey M. Friedman, F. Ulrich Hartl and Arthur L. Horwich, David Julius and Virginia Man-Yee Lee famously won a Breakthrough Prize in life sciences, while Alex Eskin grabbed a Breakthrough Prize in mathematics.
Each recipient was granted a $3 million award – the biggest individual monetary prize in science.
Along with the ongoing controversy over user privacy, on the heels of the massive Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg have triggered debate, including a congressional hearing, over its political ad policies.
On 3 October, Facebook’s approach and rules on “misinformation" on its platform were quietly revised: previously, all “ads, landing pages, and business practices” were prohibited from sharing “deceptive, false, or misleading content” or making “deceptive claims, offers, or methods”.
Now, Facebook only blocks ads that include “claims debunked by third-party fact checkers or, in certain circumstances, claims debunked by organisations with particular expertise”.
"In most cases, in a democracy, I believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians they may or may not vote for are saying and judge their character for themselves”, Zuckerberg noted in front of a committee.
On hearing the words, Aaron Sorkin, “The Social Network” scriptwriter, took a veiled swipe at the Facebook founder, saying that had he known about the businessman's attitude towards fact-checking, he would have “had the Winklevoss twins invent Facebook” in his film.