A hot potato: Yesterday saw Mark Zuckerberg given an extensive interview with Kara Swisher on the Recode Decode podcast. The Facebook CEO talked about everything from Cambridge Analytica to Russian election interference to fake news. But it’s Zuckerberg’s views on that last topic which has brought controversy: he said that conspiracy theorists, including Holocaust deniers, deserve a voice on the platform.
Swisher asked Zuckerberg why Facebook allowed users to post conspiracy theories such as Holocaust denial on the social network. “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,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, the comments drew a lot of attention, leading to a clarification from Zuckerberg. In an email to Recode (below), he explained that his intention wasn’t to defend Holocaust deniers, adding that Facebook wasn’t trying to stop people from creating false stories, but to prevent misinformation from spreading across its services.
While the company won’t ban conspiracy sites such as InfoWars or those who claim the Sandy Hook massacre never happened, it is removing any misinformation that leads to real-world violence.
The New York Times reports that the move is a response to incidents in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India, where rumors that spread on Facebook led to targeted attacks on minorities.
CNBC reports that under the new policy, text and image items created or shared with the purpose of immediately "contributing to or exacerbating violence or physical harm" will be removed. Facebook will be working with local and international organizations and use its own image recognition tech to identify offending items.
Zuckerberg’s email to Recode:
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.
I look forward to catching up again soon.