Hawaiians call Mark Zuckerberg 'the face of neocolonialism' over land lawsuits



A few days after Christmas, Mark Zuckerberg shared a series of photographs of his family at their $100m, 700-acre property in Kauai. The Facebook CEO and his wife “fell in love with the community and the cloudy green mountains”, he wrote, and decided to “plant roots and join the community ourselves”.

Two days later, Zuckerberg’s lawyers filed lawsuits against hundreds of Hawaiians who may own an interest in small parcels within the boundaries of Zuckerberg’s estate. The “quiet title” suits, first reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, are used to clarify the often complicated history of land ownership in Hawaii and can result in owners being forced to sell their land at auction. In some cases, defendants are even required to pay the legal fees of the plaintiff – in this case, the world’s fifth richest man.

Zuckerberg’s lawsuits have prompted a backlash from locals who place the billionaire within a long, painful history of western conquest and Native Hawaiian dispossession.


This is all too common in Hawaii.

Housing prices are already out of the reach of common working folk and you have these millionaires and billionaires who have these huge houses which sits vacant most of the year due to them being just vacation houses.

The middle class is steadily being squeezed out. What gets left behind is a feudal system with rich people and the remaining people as serfs.


I’ve seen this story in the news and I wish I could fully understand this. I know just a little bit about property law and find it interesting. I assume Hawaii is a common law country due either to the British influence or United States led coup. I’m sure there are peculiarities. So is it that Zuckerberg has purchased a bunch of contiguous property that has some areas he hasn’t purchased. Is he then trying to force a sale of those properties he does not currently own?


The news is misunderstanding the situation.

Here’s a quote from Zuckerberg’s Facebook:

There have been some misleading stories going around today about our plans in Hawaii, so I want to clear this up.

I posted last month about how Priscilla and I bought some land in Hawaii. We want to create a home on the island, and help preserve the wildlife and natural beauty. You can read about it here: facebook.com/zuck/posts/10103370750850071
The land is made up of a few properties. In each case, we worked with the majority owners of each property and reached a deal they thought was fair and wanted to make on their own.

As with most transactions, the majority owners have the right to sell their land if they want, but we need to make sure smaller partial owners get paid for their fair share too.
In Hawaii, this is where it gets more complicated. As part of Hawaiian history, in the mid-1800s, small parcels were granted to families, which after generations might now be split among hundreds of descendants. There aren’t always clear records, and in many cases descendants who own 1/4% or 1% of a property don’t even know they are entitled to anything.

To find all these partial owners so we can pay them their fair share, we filed what is called a “quiet title” action. 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.
We are working with a professor of native Hawaiian studies and long time member of this community, who is participating in this quiet title process with us. It is important to us that we respect Hawaiian history and traditions.

We love Hawaii and we want to be good members of the community and preserve the environment. We look forward to working closely with the community for years to come.


Zuckerberg is now filing “quiet title” lawsuits against a few hundred people who own or once owned the lands, which are often passed down from generation to generation without a will or a deed, the newspaper reported Wednesday. The suits are aimed “at forcing these families to sell their land at a public court auction to the highest bidder,” the Star-Advertiser explains.

That’s not accurate, Zuckerberg wrote Thursday in a Facebook post. He said he negotiated the land purchases through their majority owners, but some of these lands may have fractional owners who may not be aware they are entitled to anything.

“To find all these partial owners so we can pay them their fair share, we filed what is called a ‘quiet title’ action,” Zuckerberg wrote. "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, adding that “it is important to us that we respect Hawaiian history and traditions.”


The action is for fractional owners, not against them. This is not a suit against anyone. This action was probably unnecessary to take before transferring ownership of the property.


This is why I would like to understand this better from someone who knows Hawaiian property law. Zuckerberg seeming claim that majority owners can sell property is simply not true at least in my state and probably most others.

Land inheritance is a big problem. If you let land inherit through multiple generations you can have a bunch of distant relatives owning the land. To sell it requires all of their signatures. I have a strong suspicion Zuckerberg isn’t doing this to make sure unknown owners get their ‘fair share’. I think this is probably trying to force a sale.


In Hawaii I think majority owners and those who live on the land are the ones who decide to sell.

As for those who perceive this as ‘the face of neocolonialism’ and such, they should keep in mind that this land was, as Zuckerberg stated “about to be purchased by a corporate developer and sub-divided into ~100 commercial units when we stepped in to acquire it and preserve the land instead.”


Why would you think that about Hawaiian law? Is that just a guess or do you have some basis for your opinion?

If it is like my state then if I recall if one party wants to sell then they can force an auction of the property. The sale price from the auction will then be distributed to the various owners based on ownership percentage. And it would be a real auction. Anyone could show up and bid on the property. There wouldn’t be an agreed to sale price. Regarding the initiator of the sale I said one party but it may be some other rule like a majority of the ownership.

If it is like my state it is forcing a sale. And if it was land you as a partial owner enjoyed the use of you couldn’t stop the sale. I don’t know that there is anything unusual in this but Zuckerbergs spin on it is dishonest.


Judging by what Zuckerberg said, would be my basis. I doubt he’d lie about a legal matter, since that can easily be discounted if he’s incorrect. Also, look into kuleana land rights.

Your state is not Hawaii, composed of a series of very small islands and the last state introduced into the USA. You’re comparing apples and oranges here.


Zuckerberg is a man who may have violated a contract in originally building his billion dollar business when working on a similar business for others. He also said of his customers uploading their private information, ‘They trust me — dumb f***s’. I’d not be surprised if he stretched the truth for PR purposes.

Hawaii is a common law state like mine. This is unlike Louisiana which is a civil law state. So it is more like comparing varieties of apples then apples and oranges.


Yes yes we could go into all the controversies involving Zuckerberg but that won’t be very beneficial at the moment in my opinion.

I’m assuming your state didn’t have native land rights and non-native land rights? Hawaiian history is a messy thing. You can read about it more by researching kuleana land rights. These tiny islands have been split over the decades into tiny, tiny shares because of the original land rights that don’t always even provide documentation when the land rights are passed down.


What a creep. Boycott Facebook.


Too late. I’ve been there for a while.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.