Facebook CEO Backs Down in Hawaii Land Dispute

HONOLULU (CN) – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Friday that he is dropping quiet title lawsuits filed in December against owners of ancestral lots located on his 700-acre Kauai property.

Zuckerberg said in an op-ed piece in Friday’s Garden Island newspaper that after hearing from many people in the community and learning more about the cultural and historical significance of the land, he and his wife have decided “to find a better path forward.”

“We understand that for native Hawaiians, kuleana are sacred and the quiet title process can be difficult. We want to make this right, talk with the community, and find a better approach,” Zuckerberg wrote.

A dozen so-called kuleana lots exist within the 700-acre property Zuckerberg purchased in 2014, each falling to hundreds of descendants of commoners originally awarded the land in the Kuleana Act of 1850 – many of whom are unaware they own a share of the property.

Zuckerberg originally claimed that he filed the lawsuits to identify those owners and compensate them. Native Hawaiian advocates, however, say that such actions are just an instrument for moving people off of ancestral homelands. A quirk in Hawaii law provides for public auction of kuleana property whose owners cannot agree on how to dispose of it.

Amidst public outcry – much of it on Facebook, where Zuckerberg took to defending himself – one local lawmaker said he planned to introduce legislation compelling Zuckerberg to mediate the matters.

Zuckerberg relented on Friday, while reiterating his desire to preserve the natural beauty of the land.

“Before we acquired land in Waipake, it was set to be sub-divided by a commercial developer and built into about 80 homes, which could have impacted endangered monk seals and albatross. Now the land will be preserved with minimal development, and large portions will be maintained for farming by the community,” he wrote.

“I regret that I did not take the time to fully understand the quiet title process and its history before we moved ahead,” he continued. “Now that I understand the issues better, it’s clear we made a mistake.”