Zuckerberg says Facebook must stand up for free speech

Posted at 5:35 PM, Feb 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-01 18:35:36-05

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a speech Friday in Utah that he doesn’t want his platform to be used to “rip society apart” but that at some point the social media company must stand up for free speech.

Zuckerberg said the company’s upcoming steps to protect free expression are “going to piss off a lot of people,” The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The company has come under pressure to do more to clamp down on fake accounts, misinformation and other forms of misuse after Russian actors used Facebook and other social media platforms to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections. The 2020 election will be a test of whether they’ve done enough.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been one of those critics, criticizing Facebook’s policy of not fact-checking politicians’ speech or ads the way it has outside parties fact-check news stories and other posts.

“The last thing I want is for our products to be used to divide people or rip society apart in any kind of way,” said Zuckerberg during a speech in Salt Lake City. “But at some point, we’ve got to stand up and say, ‘No, we’re going to stand for free expression.’ Yeah, we’re going to take down the content that’s really harmful, but the line needs to be held at some point.”

Zuckerberg told the audience at a technology conference called the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit that Facebook had used artificial intelligence and other tactics to try and detect and get rid of content that promotes terrorism and child trafficking or inciting violence.

But he said Facebook has to draw a line about what constitutes censorship.

“Increasingly, we’re getting called in to censor a lot of different kinds of content that makes me really uncomfortable,” Zuckerberg said. “It kind of feels like the list of things that you’re not allowed to say socially keeps on growing ... And I’m not really OK with that.”

Zuckerberg said he has not done a good job of communicating to the world what the company’s core mission is, but that he now realizes his company doesn’t have that luxury anymore.

After mixing up the name of the Utah city where Facebook is building a $1 million data center — he called it Eagle Rock and it’s actually Eagle Mountain — Zuckerberg quipped: “Let’s be real here. Communicating is not my best thing, all right?”