Facebook says some misinformation and racism will 'inevitably' always exist on its platforms

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Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. Reuters/Erin Scott
  • Facebook's CEO said moderating content is like fighting crime.

  • Instagram's leader similarly said that some racism will "inevitably" exist online.

  • Their comments show that Facebook may never fully weed out harmful content on its platforms.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Two Facebook executives on Thursday addressed recent accusations that it hasn't done enough to combat misinformation and racism on its platforms.

Both Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram head Adam Mosseri came to similar conclusions: their platforms will never be fully rid of harmful content.

The Verge's Casey Newton asked Zuckerberg about President Joe Biden's recent remarks that Facebook and platforms like it are "killing people."

In response, Zuckerberg said "it's a little bit like fighting crime in a city. No one expects that you're ever going to fully solve crime in a city."

Zuckerberg, continuing with the analogy, said "the police department's goal is not to make it so that if there's any crime that happens, that you say that the police department is failing."

Instead, he said, "what we generally expect is that the integrity systems, the police departments, if you will, will do a good job of helping to deter and catch the bad thing when it happens and keep it at a minimum, and keep driving the trend in a positive direction and be in front of other issues too."

Mosseri made a similar argument later on Thursday in a video posted online. He said that although racism has no place on Instagram - which is owned by Facebook - "we know inevitably that some racism is going to happen on the platforms. There are racists in the world, and they're not going to check their racism at the door when they open up our app."

Mosseri said because of that, the company needs to reduce the amount of hate speech to "as close to zero" as possible as well as provide tools to the targets of that harassment so they can "protect themselves."

Moderating the world's most popular and expansive platforms is no easy feat, especially as the industry faces mounting pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle - not to mention the US Surgeon General and the White House Chief of Staff and even pop star Selena Gomez.

After Biden made his comments, Facebook published a blog calling for an end to "finger-pointing."

"The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the US has increased," the company said in the blog. "These and other facts tell a very different story to the one promoted by the administration in recent days."

But Mosseri and Zuckerberg's comments call into question just how difficult it is to run internet services that are used by billions of people around the world.

And their suggestions to both build tools meant to "deter" the "bad thing" and equip users with the means to protect themselves show how limited the companies are in combatting harmful content.

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