Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday if he would promise Congress that he and his company will limit the infringements on free expression in his efforts to ward off “bad actors.”
“You have answered several questions today about efforts to keep bad actors, whether that’s a terrorist group to malicious foreign agent, off of your platform, and you’ve also heard concerns about bias at Facebook, particularly bias against conservatives,” said Thune, the chair of the Senate Commerce, Transportation & Energy Committee, one of the two presiding over the hearing along with the Senate Judiciary Committee. “As a final question, can you assure us that when you’re improving tools to stop bad actors, that will you err on the side of protecting speech, especially political speech from all different corners.”
Thune essentially asked Zuckerberg to guarantee there wouldn’t be a breach of free speech — at least too much so.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz broached the same subject as his colleague, questioning Zuckerberg about the firing of President Donald Trump — supporting Palmer Luckey, a virtual reality specialist and entrepreneur. Cruz also mentioned the more recent Diamond & Silk ban, which appears to be only temporary.
Zuckerberg tried to convince Thune he would protect the platform from evildoers and do his best to not overly squash speech or content — a fine line.
“If there is a threat of harm, we’re going to take a conservative position on that and make sure we flag that and understand that more broadly,” Zuckerberg told Thune and the rest of the lawmakers. “But overall, I want to make sure we provide people with the most voice possible. I want the widest possible expression, and I don’t want anyone at our company to make any decisions based on the political ideology of the content.”
Zuckerberg will be hard pressed to find the right balance in maintaining, or arguably recreating, a platform of free expression and appeasing the calls to further combat hate speech.
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