Facebook CEO drops controversial suits over Kauai land claims

Updated: Jan. 27, 2017 at 9:59 AM HST
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KILAUEA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Following a furor, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is dropping his "quiet title" actions against hundreds of people on Kauai.

In an op-ed in the Garden Island newspaper, Zuckerberg said he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have spoken with community leaders about the cultural and historical significance of the land and want to work together on a new approach.

"Upon reflection, I regret that I did not take the time to fully understand the quiet title process and its history before we moved ahead. Now that I understand the issues better, it's clear we made a mistake," Zuckerberg said.

"The right path is to sit down and discuss how to best move forward. We will continue to speak with community leaders that represent different groups, including native Hawaiians and environmentalists, to find the best path."

Zuckerberg spurred local and national criticism following the suits, which have been likened to the tactics Hawaii sugar barons used to take land from Native Hawaiians.

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 sued suing families who might claim a portion of the property as "kuleana lands," which are lands passed down to the heirs of the first landowner without a will or 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.

State Rep. Kaniela Ing, who previously called the Zuckerberg lawsuits bullying, said he's "humbled" to hear that the suits will be dropped.

"Thousands of everyday people stood up and spoke out against one of the most influential billionaires, the best PR professionals, and the best attorneys in the world, and we won," Ing said, in a news release. "To Mark Zuckerberg, thank you for doing the right thing and hearing our voices. You now have an opportunity to set the bar for what being a good neighbor and an ally to indigenous peoples looks like."

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