‘Undermines Trust’: Mark Zuckerberg Reflects On Facebook Censoring COVID-19 ‘Misinformation’

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reflected on the role his company played on censoring information during the COVID-19 pandemic on a Thursday episode of the “Lex Fridman Podcast.”

Zuckerberg suggested censoring misinformation is difficult and requires a certain degree of subjective judgement. Administering censorship regarding the COVID pandemic was especially hard, the tech mogul continued, because many scientific assumptions at the time had not been properly scrutinized. Zuckerberg also told Fridman the “establishment” asked for censorship on claims that ended up being arguable or correct.

“So misinformation … has been a really tricky one, because there are things that are kind of obviously false, right, that are maybe factual, but may not be harmful,” he began. “So it’s like, alright, are you gonna censor someone for just being wrong, if there’s no kind of harm implication of what they’re doing? I think … there’s a bunch of real issues and challenges there.” (RELATED: Adam Schiff Urges Amazon, Facebook To Ban Content Promoting ‘Vaccine Misinformation’)

“Just take some of the stuff around COVID earlier on in the pandemic, where there were real health implications, but there hadn’t been time to fully vet a bunch of the scientific assumptions, and, unfortunately, I think a lot of the establishment on that kind of waffled on a bunch of facts and asked for a bunch of things to be censored that, in retrospect, ended up being more debatable or true. And that stuff is really tough, right? It really undermines trust,” Zuckerberg added.

Zuckerberg claimed in August 2021 to have removed 18 million Facebook posts that allegedly contained “misinformation” on the COVID-19 pandemic, without specifying how often those posts had been viewed or shared elsewhere, CBS News reported at the time.

The Facebook company said in mid-July 2021 that over two billion people had viewed “authoritative information” about COVID on the platform, according to CBS. Facebook previously censored posts that asserted the pandemic was man-made, otherwise known as the “lab leak theory,” before ending the ban in May 2021.

Emails obtained by Reason purport to show the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly communicated with Facebook, and that staffers at the social media platform took direction from the agency regarding COVID-19 moderation and fact-checking policies throughout 2021.

The U.S. Department of Energy in February concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic likely originated from a leak in a Chinese laboratory, according to a report shared with the White House and select members of Congress.