Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg defends political ad rules, calls digital speech new ‘fifth estate’

Business Features Finance FOREIGN NEWS Human Rights Technology Technology WORLD NEWS
Share

“It is a fifth estate, alongside the other power structures in our society,” Zuckerberg said, referring to Facebook and other tech platforms

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday launched a defense of how tech companies promote and regulate free speech, arguing that Facebook and its peers have emerged as a “fifth estate” of digital speech in society alongside traditional news media.

Zuckerberg, in a speech at Georgetown University, repeatedly cast Facebook and free expression as one and the same. He echoed language from the 18th century, when people began referring to journalists and the press as a “fourth estate” co-existing with three existing tiers in the British Parliament.

Zuckerberg’s views on free expression have wide-ranging effects because, as Facebook’s controlling shareholder and chief executive, he has final say in all of the company’s policies and products, which billions of people worldwide use.

He has frequently rewritten Facebook’s speech rulebook depending on changing circumstances. Recently, the company eliminated a rule that for years had banned advertisements with “false or misleading content,” and ahead of the 2020 presidential election, it has said it will not attempt to fact check the ads of political candidates.

“We think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,” he said. “I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy.”

“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world,” Zuckerberg said in the speech, which was broadcast online. “It is a fifth estate alongside the other power structures in our society.”

“People no longer have to rely on traditional gatekeepers in politics or media to make their voices heard, and that has important consequences,” he said.

The speech in the nation’s capital was Zuckerberg’s most visible move yet to counter growing pressure from Democratic presidential candidates, Republican lawmakers and other critics calling for Facebook and tech companies to broadly change how they regulate speech on their platforms.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s Democratic presidential campaign blasted Zuckerberg after the speech, attacking the executive for his decision not to fact check the ads of political campaigns. Biden’s campaign has called for Facebook, Twitter and Google to take down ads from President Donald Trump’s campaign that contained false claims about Biden.

“Facebook has chosen to sell Americans’ personal data to politicians looking to target them with disproven lies and conspiracy theories, crowding out the voices of working Americans,” Bill Russo, Biden’s deputy communications director, said in a statement.

“Zuckerberg attempted to use the Constitution as a shield for his company’s bottom line,” he said.

Zuckerberg’s views on free expression have wide-ranging effects because, as Facebook’s controlling shareholder and chief executive, he has final say in all of the company’s policies and products, which billions of people worldwide use.

Zuckerberg, though, said he was hopeful that tech companies and their users would eventually come to a stable understanding of some kind.

“It’s going to take time to hear all these voices and knit them together into a coherent narrative,” he said.

“I’m not always going to be here, and I want to ensure the values of voice and free expression are enshrined deeply into how this company is governed,” Zuckerburg said.

Image: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes his keynote speech during Facebook Inc's annual F8 developers conference in San Jose
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg makes his keynote speech during Facebook Inc’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose
Please follow and like us:
error

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *