Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that the onus should not be on private companies like his when it comes to determining what should be considered legitimate free speech.
But he has warned that excessive regulation risks stifling expression, and cited China as an example of too much control.
Like other social media platforms, Facebook has come under pressure to do more to control harmful content and stop the spread of false information. In particular, Facebook has recently been called out for being too slow to respond to the spread of misinformation and criticised for its policy on political advertising.
In 2018, the platform launched new policies for political advertising in the US and then globally the following year. Under the new policy, political ads are required to display who paid for them, and a copy of the ad is kept in a publicly searchable database for seven years.
However, this week the company said that political posts sponsored by social media stars would not be included in its database. Facebook admits it does not always fact-check posts by politicians as part of its free speech policy either.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference this week, Zuckerberg said that he supported more regulation, but added: “We don’t want private companies making so many decisions about how to balance social equities without any more democratic process.”
He urged governments to take ownership of coming up with a new regulatory framework for social media, suggesting that it should include elements of existing rules for telecoms and media companies. “In the absence of that kind of regulation we will continue doing our best,” he said.
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“But I actually think on a lot of these questions that are trying to balance different social equities it is not just about coming up with the right answer, it is about coming up with an answer that society thinks is legitimate.”
He went on to admit that Facebook had been slow to recognise the development of coordinated online “information campaigns” by state actors like Russia. But added that they were also becoming more adept at covering their tracks by masking the IP addresses of users.
To counter this, Zuckerburg said the company had a team of 35,000 people reviewing content and security on the platform. “Our budget for content review is bigger today than the whole revenue of the company when we went public in 2012, when we had a billion users,” he said.