Content denying the existence of the Holocaust and those who spread it should not necessarily be banned, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Recode interview published Wednesday.
The publication’s founder, Kara Swisher, was pressing the leader on his company’s content moderation policies, asking him what he should do about content that is unarguably, absolutely false.
She referenced claims that the tragic massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 didn’t happen, something InfoWars’ Alex Jones made wild conjectures about.
It “is not a debate. It is false. You can’t just take that down?” Swisher asked.
Zuckerberg said he agreed that is false, and if someone directed such allegations at a victim of such a tragedy, it would violate Facebook’s policies against harassment, and would be subsequently taken down.
“But overall, let’s take this whole closer to home … I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” Zuckerberg continued, apparently unafraid of discussing extremely sensitive, but important topics. “I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.”
In saying so, Zuckerberg seems to be rolling back his once-professed assertiveness in taking down content deemed by many to be unsavory, or reprehensible. He’s gone from asking for forgiveness on the Jewish holiday of repentance for his creation being used “to divide people,” and promising to do more to stop bad actors, to saying that maybe they shouldn’t be the judge and rather a platform of (almost) completely free expression — although some would argue that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
However, Zuckerberg wants to decide based on intent, something he and others within his company will likely find difficult.
“I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong,” he said, with Swisher jumping in to add that “they might be.”
“It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent.”
He continued, according to Recode:
I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly. I’m sure you do. I’m sure a lot of leaders and public figures we respect do too, and I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, “We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.”
Zuckerberg describes what he would do in such a situation: let them have their page where they can post content that doesn’t attack or “organize harm against someone … even if people might disagree with it or find it offensive.”
“But that doesn’t mean that we have a responsibility to make it widely distributed in News Feed,” Zuckerberg said, essentially referring to a down-ranking of prominence and accessibility on the platform.
“So you move them down? Versus, in Myanmar, where you remove it?” Swisher asked, to which Zuckerberg answered with a simple “yes.” (RELATED: How The Daily Stormer Went From GoDaddy To The Shadows Of The Dark Web)
Investigators for the United Nations accused Facebook, by offering its services and features to anyone, of helping fuel insurgent attacks against a large Muslim population in the Southeast Asian nation. Since hate speech was found on the platform, according to the officials, and Facebook didn’t take all of them down in a platform with trillions of pieces of content, the company was at least partially to blame.
“I think that there’s a terrible situation where there’s underlying sectarian violence and intention,” Zuckerberg said. “It is clearly the responsibility of all of the players who were involved there. So, the government, civil society, the different folks who were involved, and I think that we have an important role, given the platform, that we play, so we need to make sure that we do what we need to.”
Facebook has been put in a difficult situation that Zuckerberg might not have foreseen years ago when it was a budding startup, in its infancy.
“It’s not that every single thing that happens on Facebook is gonna be good. This is humanity. People use tools for good and bad,” said Zuckerberg. “But I think that we have a clear responsibility to make sure that the good is amplified and to do everything we can to mitigate the bad.” (RELATED: Following Charlottesville, Companies Are Laying Down The Hammer. But What’s The Criteria?)
Evidently, censoring Holocaust deniers and the false content they spread to Zuckerberg might do more harm in the long run than good.
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