Facebook’s Stance on Free Speech in Interview


I found this passage from a recode podcast interview Mark Zuckerberg took part in (see below):

Zuckerberg: 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 theatre and yell “Fire!” because that creates 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.

Swisher: Okay. “Sandy Hook didn’t happen” is not a debate. It is false. You can’t just take that down?

Zuckerberg: 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” — 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—

Swisher: In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.

Zuckerberg: 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.”

Swisher: So you move them down? Versus, in Myanmar, where you remove it?

Zuckerberg: Yes.

Many seem to be angry or disagree with his stance, but I think he’s right. People should always be allowed to be right or wrong – even multiple times – so long as physical harm is not imminent. That’s still a wide margin in some cases, but if we’re to start censoring clearly offensive ideas because they’re wrong, then cue the “slippery slope” argument. Free speech should be free, even the no-good, horrible kind. While we’re (hopefully) free to speak, we’re not free from looking like complete idiots for saying wrong-headed garbage.

Update: Leaked documents obtained by Motherboard shed more light on what this threshold is.

Update: Recently, Infowars has been a lightning rod for this very topic. Major outlets moved to ba them from places like Apple Podcasts, Youtube, and Facebook. As much I think Infowars is reprehensible, banning their stupidity emboldens them and is probably a bad idea. I’m not the only one that thinks so.

Note: I think this is political too. Those more left-leaning seem to think this would be ok, while on the right, probably not. I do also think Zuckerberg will eventually bow to political pressure and change his stance.