Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg 'reconsidering' forcing Hawaiians to sell land after criticism

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg waves to the audience during an Apec meeting in Lima, Peru, Nov 19, 2016.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg waves to the audience during an Apec meeting in Lima, Peru, Nov 19, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg is reconsidering efforts to force the sale of tracts of land belonging to native Hawaiians that fall within a large estate he bought on the island of Kauai, after facing harsh criticism.

Zuckerberg filed what are known as quiet title actions to secure parcels of land within his seafront property on the island of Kauai.

The quiet title system is used to establish ownership of land where inheritance has occurred over generations and lacks formal documentation, and to force sale.

"Based on feedback from the local community, we are reconsidering the quiet title process and discussing how to move forward," Zuckerberg said in a statement on Tuesday (Jan 24) night.

"We want to make sure we are following a process that protects the interests of property owners, respects the traditions of native Hawaiians, and preserves the environment," he added.

Hawaii state representative Kaniela Ing, who in response to the controversy introduced a Bill mandating mediation in such actions involving native Hawaiians and who likened Zuckerberg's plans to those of sugar barons who took land from native Hawaiians in the 1800s, said he was heartened by the news.

"I mahalo Mr Zuckerberg for his words of aloha and willingness to talk," Ing said in a statement on Wednesday.

He then urged the social media executive to drop the legal actions, support a local legal organisation, and "join us at the table to restart a positive dialog as mutual stewards of land and culture."

Zuckerberg's statement comes just days after he posted on his Facebook page an explanation of his Hawaii plans, as news of the actions drew headlines and anger.

He said in the post that the estate is made up of several properties and while he worked with majority owners of the tracts to reach a fair deal, he had filed the actions to identify all the partial owners.

He said the tracts could be split between hundreds of descendants.

"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," he wrote.

Forbes reported that Zuckerberg paid close to US$100 million for the 283ha stretch on the secluded north shores of Kauai in 2014.