In an open letter to their newborn daughter published Tuesday, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced their intention to give 99 percent of their Facebook shares — currently valued at more than $45 billion — to charitable causes over the duration of their lives.

The couple’s decision is laudable on its surface, but there are plenty of reasons to doubt that it will mean, as they write, that “every child born today will grow up in a world that is better than the one we know now.” In addition to the prospect of funding clean energy and new treatments for disease, critics fear the money, which will be spent through what The New York Times calls the “unusual limited liability corporate structure”, will serve to increase the power private interests have over aspects of American life.

In 2010, for example, Chan and Zuckerberg donated $100 million to support charter schooling in New Jersey. Charter schools are criticized for prioritizing standardized testing over creative learning; reducing the control teachers have over their workplace, the terms of their employment and the education they deliver; and acting as a Trojan horse for the privatization of education.

Additionally, the Times reports:

By using a limited liability company instead of a nonprofit corporation or foundation, the Zuckerberg family will be able to go beyond making philanthropic grants. They will invest in companies, lobby for legislation and seek to influence public policy debates, which nonprofits are restricted from doing under tax laws. A spokeswoman for the family said that any profits from the investments would be plowed back into the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative for future projects.

“We must build technology to make change. Many institutions invest money in these challenges, but most progress comes from productivity gains through innovation,” they wrote in the letter to their daughter. “We must participate in policy and advocacy to shape debates. Many institutions are unwilling to do this, but progress must be supported by movements to be sustainable.”

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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