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Mark Zuckerberg Cancels His Lawsuits Forcing Hawaii Families To Sell Land

"Now that I understand the issues better, it's clear we made a mistake."

Posted on January 27, 2017, at 3:54 p.m. ET

Chad / Via Flickr: supercooper; Manu Fernandez / AP

Mark Zuckerberg will drop his lawsuits over Hawaiian land, he writes in an op-ed for the Hawaiian newspaper The Garden Island. He said he did not previously understand the "quiet title" process but has reconsidered his legal actions after learning more about it.

The billionaire CEO of Facebook bought 700 acres of land on Kauai for $100 million in 2014, though he did not receive exclusive rights to the land with the purchase. In seeking those rights, he began what's called a "quiet title" process, which allows for ownership of land to be decided by a judge.

The question of land ownership stems from the privatization of Hawaiian land by The Kuleana Act of 1850 and the ensuing controversy. Prior to the act, Hawaiians did not have private land ownership. The pieces of land in dispute became known as "kuleana lands."

He writes, "Our intention is to achieve an outcome that preserves the environment, respects local traditions, and is fair to those with Kuleana lands." He pledged to "work with the community on a new approach."

Zuckerberg's quiet title lawsuits named hundreds of Hawaiians with small claims on parcels of land that may have conflicted with his own, sparking a backlash from the community he sought to join. To critics, his actions reeked of the white conquest of indigenous lands that brought Hawaii into the United States in 1893.

Mark Zuckerberg forcing native Hawaiians off their own lands is modern colonialism. I can't even imagine the frustration and anger...

In an effort to smooth over the tension, Zuckerberg wrote in The Garden Island, "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."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.