During a speech at Silicon Slopes Tech Summit 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reaffirmed his company’s commitment to free speech, which has caused a backlash and even a boycott from high-profile figures like Stephen King.
“This is the new approach, and I think it’s going to piss off a lot of people,” Zuckerberg said. “But frankly the old approach was pissing off a lot of people too, so let’s try something different.”
Zuckerberg noted that the platform would support free speech and feature strong encryption for its services. He claimed that his new goal for the next decade is “to be understood,” not liked. Associated Press reported that he also acknowledged he has thus far not done a good job at communicating Facebook’s core mission to the public.
Per Breitbart, the 35-year-old businessman addressed the current dangers to the democratic process that exist on the internet, as well as concerns about free expression, safety, privacy and competition.
“The last thing I want is for our products to be used to divide people or rip society apart in any kind of way. 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.”
Critics of Zuckerberg, including King, claim that they are not comfortable with the platform’s decision to allow false information in political ads. In response to the purported increases in disinformation on the service, the famous author deleted his profile on the social media platform and directed his fans to Twitter instead.
According to Zuckerberg, his decision to pass on fact-checking political advertisements is to protect the freedom of political speech. He claims that people should be able to hear from political figures uncensored, and said the content of their speech should be debated and scrutinized in a public forum.
Comedian Bill Maher previously defended Facebook’s decision. He claimed that social media companies should not regulate political speech and said the responsibility to determine the truthfulness of politicians is in the hands of voters.
Platforms like Facebook have long been scrutinized for the way they police information. In particular, many on the political right suggested that such regulation stifled conservative voices. While Facebook has taken a hands-off approach, Twitter took a different route and banned all political messages from its platform.