Facebook CEO responds to flap over Kauai land suits

Facebook CEO responds to flap over Kauai land suits
Published: Jan. 18, 2017 at 2:18 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2017 at 11:06 PM HST
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KILAUEA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has taken to his own social media platform to respond to criticism over lawsuits he's filed over land ownership on Kauai.

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

Zuckerberg spent $100 million in 2014 on 700 acres of beachfront land on Kauai's North Shore to create a secluded sanctuary for his family.

To ensure that privacy, he's been suing families who might stake some claim to that land.

State Representative Kaniela Ing, who chairs the Ocean, Marine Resources, & Hawaiian Affairs committee, calls it bullying.

"Whether or not it's moral, everything Zuckerberg is doing now is legal. But luckily in this building, we decide what's legal and not," said Ing.

"Yeah, there probably are worse ways he can go about it. That's irrelevant. The fact is he is, Zuckerberg is now a modern colonizer," he said.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that Zuckerberg is filing lawsuits against a few hundred people – many living and some dead -- who inherited or once owned "kuleana lands," which are lands passed down to the heirs of the first landowner without a will or a deed.

Under the Kuleana Act of 1850, those lands are also passed down to people who now only own fractions of an interest in the property. But in many cases, there's no documentation.

In his post, Zuckerberg said to find all those entitled to kuleana lands, '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."

He added, "We are working with a professor of Native Hawaiian studies and longtime 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."

A contested case could potentially cost landowners more than $200,000, though Zuckerberg attorney Keoni Shultz has said the Facebook CEO has no intention of contesting any co-owner who can prove their interest in any of the land parcels.

Ing said he is seeking advice from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp to draft a bill to protect people with kuleana lands so this can't happen in the future.

"What we're hoping to accomplish with the new legislation is when these sorts of disputes arise, in this case and in the future, local families have a chance to compete."

Ing says the bill will expect families to establish a trust and require mediation.

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