Mark Zuckerberg issues clarification after appearing to defend Holocaust deniers
"I find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that."
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg moved quickly to clarify comments made in a podcast interview on Wednesday where he appeared to defend the rights of Holocaust deniers to use his platform to spread their beliefs.
During the interview conducted with technology news publication Recode, Zuckerberg said that Facebook users who published such opinions and content did not "think that they're intentionally getting it wrong."
The full relevant exchange between Zuckerberg and Recode journalist Kara Swisher as recorded in the 90-minute conversation is as follows:
RECODE: Okay. “Sandy Hook didn’t happen” is not a debate. It is false. You can’t just take that down?
MARK ZUCKERBERG: "I agree that it is false."
MZ: "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..."
MZ: "I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened."
R: Yes, there’s a lot.
MZ: "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-"
R: In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.
MZ: "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-"
R: So you move them down? Versus, in Myanmar, where you remove it?
Since the release of the podcast, Zuckerberg has moved to clarify his comments.
In an email sent to Recode on Wednesday night, the 34-year-old insists that he personally finds Holocaust denial "deeply offensive" and that he "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," Zuckerberg added.
"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.
"These issues are very challenging but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech," he concluded.
Zuckerberg's statements arrive in the wake of a difficult week for Facebook, following the airing of an undercover Channel 4 documentary that exposed staff training methods in which a racist meme was deemed to be fair use.
The damning recording in question was filmed at the tech giant's European headquarters in Dublin, prompting Minister for Communications Denis Naughten to summon Facebook bosses for an urgent meeting set to take place in New York on Thursday.
“The programme raises serious questions for the company in respect of the manner in which it handles reports of harmful or illegal content; the internal procedures it has in place to moderate harmful or illegal content, and, the systems the company has in place to report instances of abuse, suspected abuse or other illegal activity to the appropriate authorities, including An Garda Síochána," said Naughten.