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Zuckerberg asks governments what speech should be allowed on the web

President Barack Obama with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a town hall meeting at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California, April 20, 2011. (Lawrence Jackson/White House)
February 17, 2020

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seeking guidance on what speech should be allowed on social media platforms, and he’s turning to other countries for advice.

Zuckerberg raised the questions to an assembly of Western nations that met at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, the Washington Examiner reported.

“There should be more guidance and regulation from the states on basically — take political advertising as an example — what discourse should be allowed?” Zuckerberg said. “Or, on the balance of free expression and some things that people call harmful expression, where do you draw the line?”

The social media platform has come under added scrutiny in recent years as it has become a tool for both controversial political discourse and a meeting area for extremism. Zuckerberg asked for help to maintain relatively free expression on the site while addressing security concerns.

“There are a lot of decisions in these areas that are really just balances between different social values,” he said. “It’s about coming up with an answer that society feels is legitimate and that they can get behind and understand that you drew the line here on the balance of free expression and safety.”

Facebook and its sister platform, Instagram, have reportedly served as key platforms for Russian government-connected efforts to sow disinformation to affect the outcome of U.S. elections. Facebook more recently took down several Iranian connected accounts accused of promoting disinformation within the U.S.

Concerns surrounding Facebook’s handling of information has become an issue within U.S. politics. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren has accused the platform of publishing political false advertising.

In her dispute with Facebook, Warren ran her own, intentionally false ad, claiming Facebook and Zuckerberg had endorsed Republican President Donald Trump, CNN reported.

“We intentionally made a Facebook ad with false claims and submitted it to Facebook’s ad platform to see if it’d be approved,” Warren said. “It got approved quickly.”

She said the incident proves the platform favors profits over protecting its audience from disinformation meant to manipulate political opinions.

Missouri’s junior Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has accused the platform of targeting conservatives for political censorship also proposed legislation barring the platform from censoring conservatives. In 2018, the platform banned users from linking to sites that host downloadable blueprints for 3D printed firearms.

While the First Amendment of the constitution bars the U.S. government from “abridging the freedom of speech,” Facebook’s status as a private platform allows the company to regulate its own platform.

Outside the U.S., the European Union officials are also considering antitrust legislation against the platform.

Zuckerberg appears ready to now accept and even promote some regulations to the platform.

“We need to make sure that the internet can continue to be a place where everyone can share their views openly and where the legal framework around this is one that encodes democratic values,” he said Saturday. “I do think that as part of that, we’ve got to move forward on regulation.”