In an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher, Mark Faceberg discussed Facebook’s approach to tackling hoaxes, misinformation, and offensive content. Faceberg defended his decision to NOT delete or ban them.
Let’s jump right in it!
Why don’t you wanna just say “get off our platform?”
Look, as abhorrent as some of this content can be, I do think that it gets down to this principle of giving people a voice.
Let me give you an example of where we would take it down. In Myanmar or Sri Lanka, where there’s a history of sectarian violence, similar to the tradition in the U.S. where you can’t go into a movie theater and yell “Fire!” because that creates an imminent harm.
The principles that we have on what we remove from the service are: If it’s going to result in real harm, real physical harm, or if you’re attacking individuals, then that content shouldn’t be on the platform. There’s a lot of categories of that that we can get into, but then there’s broad debate.
Fisher asks him about Sandy Hook Truthers
Okay. “Sandy Hook didn’t happen” is not a debate. It is false. You can’t just take that down?
I agree that it is false.
I also think that going to someone who is a victim of Sandy Hook and telling them, “Hey, no, you’re a liar” — that is harassment, and we actually will take that down. But overall, let’s take this whole closer to home…
I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened.
I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong, but I think-
In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.
It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent. I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly. I’m sure you do. I’m sure a lot of leaders and public figures we respect do too, and I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, “We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.”
What we will do is we’ll say, “Okay, you have your page, and if you’re not trying to organize harm against someone, or attacking someone, then you can put up that content on your page, even if people might disagree with it or find it offensive.” But that doesn’t mean that we have a responsibility to make it widely distributed in News Feed. I think we, actually, to the contrary-
And let’s stop right there.
I’m old enough to remember when the white nationalist group Unite the Right marched through Charlottesville carrying Tiki Torches and the company issued this statement:
“Tiki brand is not associated in any way with the events that took place in Charlottesville and are deeply saddened and disappointed. We do not support their message or the use of our products in this way. Our products are designed to enhance backyard gatherings and to help family and friends connect with each other at home in their yard.”
I can also recall when one of the Nazi groups declared New Balance shoes to be the official shoe of white people (I recall it specifically because I was wearing a pair), and the company issued a denial press release and said that they were offended by that honorific.
It just shouldn’t be that difficult in 2018 for Faceberg to punch the Nazis.
Probably the only person who enjoyed that interview was Stephan ‘PeeWee Herman Goering’ Miller.
“I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that. Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue—but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services. If something is spreading and is rated false by fact checkers, it would lose the vast majority of its distribution in News Feed. And of course if a post crossed line into advocating for violence or hate against a particular group, it would be removed.”
Still pretty weak sauce.
UPDATE 2: Axios morning email thingie:
Facebook’s policy puts itself in the untenable position of constantly defending some of the most offensive content imaginable, including some that is widely and unequivocally accepted as false by most cultures…
Be smart: The policy makes Facebook a target for bad actors who know they can post false and often offensive information on the platform without necessarily being removed — or in some cases, punished at all.
UPDATE 3: Here’s the headline no one ever wants to see —