Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Meets With Japan PM Yoshihiko Noda, Social Network Lauded for Disaster Usefulness

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to be everywhere these days. After being sighted in China (and supposedly making big plans for his company in a country that bans the social network), Zuckerberg visited Japan this Thursday and met with high-ranking government officials, including Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in front of a monitor displaying a facebook page of Prime Minister's Office of Japan as they meet at the latter's official residence in Tokyo Thursday, March 29, 2012. Zuckerberg said Japan's tsunami has inspired him to seek more ways for his ubiquitous social media platform to help people hit by natural disasters. Zuckerberg told Noda that he believes Facebook can be used to keep people in disasters in touch with each other and provide crucial information in a time of crisis. (AP Photo/Yuriko Nakao)

In the meeting, both Zuckerberg and Noda acknowledged the usefulness of social media in helping people during times of disaster. Zuckerberg says the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan inspired him to seek more ways for Facebook to be helpful to people hit by natural disasters. The 27-year old CEO adds that social networks can help people get in touch during calamities, and governments disseminate crucial information.

Noda thanked Zuckerberg for Facebook’s usefulness in communication efforts during the tsunami. It can be noted, though, that Japanese uptake of the social network was slow at at first, due to the dominance of local networks like Mixi, and due to Facebook’s insistence on using  real names. Japanese social network users prefer to go by aliases and nicknames due to privacy concerns, but Facebook requires users to use their real names. However, Facebook does have a big presence here, being the only country outside of the U.S. where the company has an engineering office.

Last month, Facebook launched a Disaster Message Board in Japan where users can inform friends of their status and whereabouts during emergencies. Facebook might likewise roll out the service in other markets.

No other details of the meeting were disclosed. On a lighter note, PM Noda said he felt odd meeting Zuckerberg after watching the film The Social Network, which was said to have had a biased portrayal of the young CEO. “It’s a funny feeling to see you here because I watched the film,” Noda quipped. Zuckerberg, for his part, said the Hollywood portrayal of his character was “very different” from reality. Zuckerberg had likewise foregone his trademark hoodie sweatshirt in favor of coat and tie for this formal meeting.