Mark Zuckerberg is courting controversy once again after uttering some poorly chosen words in an interview with Recode.
In the latest episode of the Recode Decode podcast (which we highly recommend you listen to), the publication’s Kara Swisher asked the Facebook chief executive officer about how it handles fake news and misinformation.
The CEO seemed to want to make a point about not preventing folks from posting fake news but rather making an effort to stop it from spreading. Sadly, the example he used to get this point across could not have been more poorly chosen.
Here’s the excerpt from the interview.
Kara Swisher: Okay. “Sandy Hook didn’t happen” is not a debate. It is false. You can’t just take that down?
Mark Zuckerberg: I agree that it is false.
MZ: I also think that going to someone who is a victim of Sandy Hook and telling them, “Hey, no, you’re a liar” — that is harassment, and we actually will take that down. But overall, let’s take this whole closer to home…
MZ: I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened.
KS: Yes, there’s a lot.
MZ: 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. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong, but I think-
KS: In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.
MZ: It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent. 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.” What we will do is we’ll say, “Okay, you have your page, and if you’re not trying to organize harm against someone, or attacking someone, then you can put up that content on your page, 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. I think we, actually, to the contrary-
KS: So you move them down? Versus, in Myanmar, where you remove it?
Look Zuck, can we call you Zuck? We’re calling you Zuck. We understand the point you were trying to make.
Somebody might say that the Holocaust never happened because they were uninformed, and determining that was the reason behind there comments is tricky.
That having been said perhaps the CEO shouldn’t have used the Holocaust as an example but he is Jewish and using himself, his values and his emotions makes sense because it shows that Facebook can’t be reactionary about what it bans.
Facebook has to be cautious about what content it removes because infringing on a person’s right to free speech would likely court more controversy than using the Holocaust to make a point. In addition to that if Facebook had to remove every piece of content that offended people there would eventually be no content on the site because anything could potentially offend anybody.
For that reason the firm chooses to make content less visible in news feeds rather than remove it from the platform altogether.
Following the outcry his comments drew, Zuckerberg wrote to Swisher to clear things up.
“I enjoyed our conversation yesterday, but there’s one thing I want to clear up. I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.
Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue — but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services. If something is spreading and is rated false by fact checkers, it would lose the vast majority of its distribution in News Feed. And of course if a post crossed line into advocating for violence or hate against a particular group, it would be removed. These issues are very challenging but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech,” wrote Zuckerberg.
So that clears that up then. Zuck isn’t on-board with Holocaust deniers and simply used them as an example of how Facebook can’t just ban every piece of controversial content that pops up.
That having been said, perhaps use the moon landing or belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster next time you want an example of content Facebook can’t just delete because it offends users.