In a 90-minute interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked on multiple issues, ranging from Facebook-related issues to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting; from political issues to Trump’s border policy, and more.
Five main takeaways
1. He spoke candidly about his views on the Sandy Hook School shooting and the Holocaust deniers.
Zuckerberg agrees that people who claim that the Sandy Hook shooting or the Holocaust never happened are without a doubt misinformed and totally wrong, but that does not mean they should be evicted from the platform.
“I agree that it is false,” he said.
“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,” he said.
He then gave the example of people who deny that the Holocaust ever happened, saying that being Jewish, he found it profoundly unpleasant but that did not mean they should be thrown out of the platform, because people can and do get things wrong, including himself.
“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,” Zuckerberg said.
“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,” he said.
He continued: “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.”
He added: “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.”
2. He did not concur with the idea that there is no evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
“Well, the evidence that we’ve seen is quite clear, that the Russians did try to interfere with the election,” said the CEO of Facebook.
He said that Facebook had informed the concerned government authorities before the elections that a group of Russian military intelligence hackers was trying to sabotage the elections by Phishing the accounts of members of the Republican and Democratic National Committees.
Here’s how he explained it.
“We’ve tried to cooperate with the government and the different investigations that are going on — they obviously have much more context than this. But what we saw, before the election, was this Russian hacking group, part of Russian military intelligence, that I guess our government calls APT28. They were trying to do more traditional methods of hacking: Phishing people’s accounts, just getting access to people’s accounts that way.
“We, around the time of the election, had given this context to the FBI. They’ve clearly gone much further now, at this point, in terms of putting the whole story together. You could see that in the indictments that Mueller just issued over the last week or so. That’s the part that I actually think we got and were on top of.”
3. Zuckerberg accepted full blame for the Cambridge Analytica data breach and said that if anyone should be fired for the fiasco, it has to be him.
Earlier this year Facebook witnessed a sharp dip in its share value in the wake of the massive “data breach” scandal involving British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.
The company is believed to have misused information inappropriately gained from 50 million Facebook users to manipulate its client Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
When asked in the Recode interview if someone deserved to be fired for the Cambridge Analytica breach, he said:
“Well, I think it’s a big issue. But look, I designed the platform, so if someone’s going to get fired for this, it should be me. And I think that the important thing going forward is to make sure that we get this right. In this case, the most important steps, in terms of, to prevent this from happening again, we’d already taken in 2014 when we had changed dramatically the way that the platform worked.
“But overall, I mean, this is an important situation, and I think again it’s … This to me is an example of, you get judged by how you deal with an issue when it comes up. And I think on this one, we’ve done the right things, and many of them I think we’d actually done years ago to prevent this kind of situation from happening again.”
4. Zuckerberg was critical of China’s policies concerning social media, with specific reference to Facebook.
“They do not share the values that we have,” he said.
“You can bet that if the government hears word that it’s election interference or terrorism, I don’t think Chinese companies are going to wanna cooperate as much and try to aid the national interest there.”
Asked about his situation in China now, he said:
“I mean, we’re blocked. Over the long term. I think it’s hard to have a mission of wanting to bring the whole world closer together and leave out the biggest country.”
5. He thinks that Trump’s stand on immigration that has seen children getting separated from their parents at the U.S. border is “terrible.”
“It was terrible,” he said.
“Terrible,” he repeated for effect and to, probably, emphasize how abhorrent the whole situation was.
When asked if he did anything more in that regard than just donate money, he said:
“Yeah, well I mean, the good news here is because we’ve been working on FWD for so long, it has established a lot of the infrastructure that now … When a crisis comes up, you can’t just spin this stuff up immediately. So they’re in there and they’re able to help out.
“But I mean, talking about social utility, one of the really proud moments recently of working at this company was the fact that a couple of people could start a fundraiser to raise $1500, enough to bail one person out, and they ended up raising more than $20 million.
“And this thing just went viral, and I think it’s a great example of when you give people a voice what positive things can happen, both substantively in terms of the fundraiser and just the widespread show of support, I think, is also really meaningful. And I think a combination of that and a number of other things like that may have been what led the administration to backtrack on the policy there.”