Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said the social media giant was taking steps to reduce the amount of political content on its platforms and in its news feeds to channel users into “healthier communities” .
“What we are hearing is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience of our service,” he said, clearly worn out by recent events. The commitment was vague. “We are still working on the best way to do it,” he admitted Wednesday during a long conference call to discuss the quarterly results. “We will always let people engage in political groups and discussions if they wish,” he said.
This change follows a tumultuous electoral process warped by disinformation, defined by the rise of extremism and culminating in a murderous siege on the United States Capitol. Zuckerberg did not mention (nor, incredibly, any analyst on the appeal asked for) former President Donald Trump’s indefinite ban from the site for inciting violence and if or when he might be allowed to return. . It appears to be the decision of an unusual 40-person supervisory board around the world tasked with such decisions (and which the New York Times first reported earlier this week).
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Zuckerberg insisted that only a small minority of content on the platform is political, and the vast majority of users would like it to stay that way. “There was this frenzy through society where a lot of things got political and politics crept into everything. And we’ve seen that people don’t want that. They come to connect with their friends and family… We can potentially do a better job… ”
The change will not impact Facebook’s bottom line, Wall Streeters executives assured, calling political advertising only a “low single digit” revenue driver, even in an active political season.
Facebook released strong numbers in Q4 2020, but noted headwinds this year, including an antitrust lawsuit by the FTC and most states and threats to repeal Section 230, which grants the internet broad immunity. legal and freedom to moderate content.
Zuckerberg declined to comment on the FTC, but said, “Regarding regulation as a whole, the point I would like to stress is that it would be very helpful for us and for the internet industry if there were rules and expectations. clearer about some of these social issues, around how content should be handled, elections should be managed, standards of confidentiality that the government wants to see in place. Because these questions all have trade-offs. “
Freedom of speech, privacy and social fairness “are all very important and it is difficult for a private company to balance them. It would be better to have clear guidelines and clear rules for the Internet. So this is something that I will continue to defend. “
He reiterated that he believes Congress should actually update Section 230, which is more than two decades old, “to make sure it works the way people want it to.” The rule helped the nascent internet to develop and prosper, “so any change needs to be thought through very carefully.”
The second theme of the call was Bad Apple, which Zuckerberg criticized for upcoming new policies that will reduce targeted advertising, which has helped boost revenue for Facebook and other companies. (Apple released its quarterly results, which were excellent, after the market closed today as well.)
Zuckerberg accused the company run by Tim Cook of covering up a highly competitive initiative as being socially conscious. In addition, he noted on several occasions how Apple competes in messaging since the iMessage application is preinstalled on iPhones.
“I think it’s shaping up to be…” Zuckerberg began to sum up Apple’s situation – before the conference call link briefly dropped and he lost the train.
Happier note, VR. Facebook, a leader in the field via Oculus, is building “a continuous ecosystem for immersive space computing,” he said, clearly fascinated by the technology. “Some of the things we’re going to be able to build with VR and AR are some of the kind of experiences I’ve wanted to create since I was a kid.”