Entrepreneurs

Mark Zuckerberg on hate speech after Charlottesville: 'With the potential for more rallies, we're watching the situation closely'

Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook is doing the best it can to both be a place where everyone can share their ideas and also feel safe.

Right now — with emotions running high days after white extremists violently clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, leaving one woman dead — that's a painfully delicate task.

And it's one that Zuckerberg admits Facebook won't get right all the time.

"It's important that Facebook is a place where people with different views can share their ideas. Debate is part of a healthy society," Zuckerberg says in a post he published on his personal Facebook page Wednesday night.

But that does not mean Facebook is granting carte blanche for anyone to post anything he or she professes to believe in.

Facebook and severalother tech companies have taken a decidedly active role in blocking white supremacists from operating on the internet. For example, both GoDaddy and Google canceled the domain registration of a Nazi website, The Daily Stormer. Online payments processor PayPal cut off service to white supremacists groups and Airbnb canceled bookings of people who traveled to the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville.

"There is no place for hate in our community. That's why we've always taken down any post that promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism — including what happened in Charlottesville," Zuckerberg says.

And, Facebook will continue to do so. "With the potential for more rallies, we're watching the situation closely and will take down threats of physical harm."

But even with an army of more than 20,000 employees, Facebook can not possibly individually monitor the activity of more than 2 billion monthly active users.

Zuckerberg knows there will be mistakes.

"We won't always be perfect, but you have my commitment that we'll keep working to make Facebook a place where everyone can feel safe," he says.

It's not the first time Zuckerberg has addressed the challenge of monitoring what users publish on Facebook. In an epic manifesto published in February, Zuckerberg said that Facebook had made some mistakes in taking down content it shouldn't have.

"[T]he complexity of the issues we've seen has outstripped our existing processes for governing the community," the post reads.

"We saw this in errors taking down newsworthy videos related to Black Lives Matter and police violence, and in removing the historical Terror of War photo from Vietnam. We've seen this in misclassifying hate speech in political debates in both directions — taking down accounts and content that should be left up and leaving up content that was hateful and should be taken down.

"Both the number of issues and their cultural importance has increased recently," says the post.

"This has been painful for me because I often agree with those criticizing us that we're making mistakes. These mistakes are almost never because we hold ideological positions at odds with the community, but instead are operational scaling issues."

His apology was largely seen as a courageous and necessary move as a leader.

Going forward, Zuckerberg says Facebook will allow and encourage discourse on the behemoth social media platform, within limits.

"When someone tries to silence others or attacks them based on who they are or what they believe, that hurts us all and is unacceptable," he says.

"There's not enough balance, nuance, and depth in our public discourse, and I believe we can do something about that. We need to bring people closer together, and I know we can make progress at that."