Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “People Should Decide What Is Credible, Not Tech Companies”

Ted Johnson

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn’t backing away from the company’s decision to accept political ads without fact-checking the spots, arguing that “people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.”

Zuckerberg has been a frequent presence lately in Washington, meeting with activists, lawmakers and even President Donald Trump as the company comes under fire for a host of issues, perhaps first and foremost how the company will handle political content and disinformation in advance of the 2020 presidential election.

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In a speech at Georgetown University, Zuckerberg argued that while the company has a role in policing violent content, blatant hoaxes and other material, he takes a broader view of what should be allowed when it comes to political speech. The company has come under fire on the left for allowing the proliferation of content that many have considered hate speech or even blatantly false, while it’s also facing pressure from the right for an alleged political bias.

“When it’s not absolutely clear what to do, we should err on the side of free expression,” Zuckerberg said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has targeted Facebook on a number of fronts, including its decision to allow one of President Donald Trump’s political ads that accuse Joe Biden and son Hunter of wrongdoing in Ukraine. The Biden campaign asked Facebook to remove the ad, but it refused, as did YouTube and Twitter. CNN declined to air it.

Warren went so far as to purchase her own ad on Facebook that included a falsehood — that Zuckerberg was backing Trump in the 2020 election.

In his speech, Zuckerberg said that “given the sensitivities around political ads, I’ve considered whether we should stop allowing them altogether. From a business perspective, the controversy certainly is not worth the very small part of the business they make up.”

“I think people should see for themselves what politicians are saying,” he said.

He argued that “banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media chooses to cover.”

“I think people should see for themselves what politicians are saying,” he said.

He said that when it comes to misinformation on its platform, a problem is determining where a line should be drawn. He noted that even media outlets take different approaches to a news story on the same topic.

“We have found that a different strategy works: focusing on the authenticity of the speaker rather than focusing on the content itself,” he said.

He devoted much of his speech to the history of freedom of expression, implicitly characterizing Facebook as part of a larger trend where people are offered ever-expanding means of sharing their points of view.

“People no longer have to rely on traditional gatekeepers in politics or media to make their voices heard, and that has important consequences,” he said.

He also warned that “in times of social turmoil, our impulse is often to pull back on free expression. We want the progress that comes from free expression, but we don’t want the tension.”

Politico reported earlier this week that Zuckerberg has been meeting with a number of conservative media figures and activists to talk about an array of issues, including whether the platform has a political bias. That in turn has triggered some suspicions on the left that Zuckerberg has been trying to soothe tensions, as Trump has blasted the platform and other tech companies.

The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission already are conducting antitrust investigations of Facebook, along with a group of state attorneys general.

Zuckerberg will appear on Friday for an interview with Fox News’ Dana Perino for her show The Daily Briefing.

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