Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday said the social media giant will embrace free speech and not censorship, despite whatever its critics say.
“This is the new approach, and I think it’s going to piss off a lot of people. But frankly, the old approach was pissing off a lot of people too, so let’s try something different,” Zuckerberg said Friday at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Utah, according to CNN Business.
Facebook announced in 2019 that it would not fact-check political ads, prompting a firestorm of criticism.
“The last thing I want is for our products to be used to divide people or rip society apart in any kind of way,” Zuckerberg said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“But at some point, we’ve got to stand up and say, ‘No, we’re going to stand for free expression.’ Yeah, we’re going to take down the content that’s really harmful, but the line needs to be held at some point,” he said.
Zuckerberg said the increase in calls for limiting unfettered speech has come to bother him.
“Increasingly, we’re getting called in to censor a lot of different kinds of content that makes me really uncomfortable,” Zuckerberg said. “It kind of feels like the list of things that you’re not allowed to say socially keeps on growing.”
“And I’m not really OK with that,” he said.
Zuckerberg said democracy faces new challenges in an online world.
“There are real questions the internet raises around the democratic process, its integrity, around free expression vs. safety, around privacy and competition and well-being,” he said. “And I mean, we need to get these right.”
“The formula throughout history has been that empowering individuals, more voice, more connection between people, is the way you build strong communities,” he said.
Zuckerberg said many people and groups pushing censorship want to muzzle others.
“The people who are criticizing and saying that more stuff needs to be censored are never the people who are actually at risk of being censored themselves,” Zuckerberg said. “They have their ways of getting stuff out.”
“I feel like someone needs to stand up for giving everyone a voice,” he said.
His bottom line? Facebook “isn’t to be liked, but to be understood.”
“If you’re not out there standing for things that people care about then it’s not possible for people to feel that strongly about what you’re doing,” he said.
Zuckerberg also offered a dose of contrition that Facebook had not anticipated how its rules might have been broken.
“This is the lesson from Cambridge Analytica, right? There was a developer who gave people access to the data, and then the developer turned around and sold the data, which was against our policies. But, rather than waiting for someone to report that, we should have had systems that could proactively go in and identify that suspicious behavior,” he said, according to KSL.
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