On July 18, Recode published a conversation between tech journalist Kara Swisher and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg covering the company's struggles during a long, issue-laden year.
Buried within their discussion was a rather illuminating exchange where Swisher asked the chief executive on why the platform allows some conspiracy theorists to post their beliefs despite most, if not all, of their claims being blatantly rooted on misinformation.
Mark Zuckerberg's Holocaust Comments
In response, Zuckerberg said that these users, including Holocaust deniers, have a right to be heard. His statement obviously attracted some backlash, and now, the CEO has sent a clarification to Recode affirming that he finds Holocaust deniers "deeply offensive" and didn't intend to defend them.
"I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn't intend to defend the intent of people who deny that," Zuckerberg wrote in an e-mail.
He also stressed that Facebook's goal is not to stop anyone from posting false information but to stop fake news and misinformation from running amok across the platform.
"If something is spreading and is rated false by fact checkers, it would lose the vast majority of its distribution in News Feed," explained Zuckerberg. "And of course if a post crossed line into advocating for violence or hate against a particular group, it would be removed."
In the main interview, Swisher asked Zuckerberg why posts related to Sandy Hook shooting denials seem to bypass the platform's fake news purge, while false information such as the ones that occurred in Myanmar or Sri Lanka were removed. Zuckerberg said that Facebook's principle is to remove posts that can result in any real harm, or if the post attacks an individual. These are types of content that shouldn't be on the platform, he stressed.
As aggressive as it's been when it comes to purging fake news following the acts of violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, the company doesn't seem to be taking a stronger stance on the matter elsewhere.
It's been quite a year for Facebook, that's for sure. Barely having recovered from the fact that Russian trolls used the platform to divide the American people during the 2016 presidential election, the company also suffered its first major data scandal in years in which a firm called Cambridge Analytica acquired data from millions upon millions of accounts without users' consent. Facebook knew about it and didn't tell the public until news organizations broke the story.
Judging by Zuckerberg's original statements, it appears Facebook itself remains baffled as to how to control what the public sees or doesn't see. As Swisher notes, the contentious debate around responsibility for content isn't over yet.