On Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat down with Silicon Slopes Executive Director Clint Betts for an interview at the 2020 Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The interview was wide-ranging, but at the very beginning, Betts asked Zuckerberg to elaborate on his recent statement that it’s more important to be understood rather than liked.
Zuckerberg replied, first talking about how in Facebook’s nascent stages as a company, he didn’t quite know how to properly communicate, and that despite the poor and vague communication, the company was winning because of the product.
He continued, comparing Facebook’s prior approach to what they’re beginning to do now:
Broadly speaking, for a long time, the basic approach was, “Okay, let’s try to not, like, do anything that’s gonna be too offensive … and we’ll kind of explain what we’re doing in broad strokes and talk about the mission of what we’re doing,” which is something that I really believe in – helping to build community and bring people closer together. But I think we just shied away for a long time talking about … some of the principles that we believe in that are increasingly controversial in the world, and I just think that we, for one, don’t have that luxury anymore.
Zuckerberg added that the company’s previous mode of communication allowed people to feel “positive … but fairly shallow” about Facebook because the company wasn’t “standing for things that people care about.”
He went on to talk directly about freedom of expression and the troubling push for censorship:
In Georgetown last year, I gave this speech around our principles, around free expression, and, you know, that’s just one of the areas that I really feel like is under attack right now … increasingly, you know, we’re getting called to censor a lot of different kinds of content that makes me really uncomfortable. I think that it kind of feels like the list of things that you’re not allowed to say socially keeps on growing, and I’m not really okay with that.
Zuckerberg clarified that he isn’t talking about the necessary removal of things like “terrorism, child exploitation, incitement to violence,” etc, that Facebook has tens of thousands of staff working on around the clock.
At some point I just felt like, alright, we’ve got to stand up and say, “No, we’re gonna stand for free expression, and yeah, we’re gonna take down the content that’s really harmful, but the line needs to be held at some point,” and I think that … it’s unfortunate that this is such a controversial thing.
At this, the audience cheered.
The CEO noted that back in 2004, freedom of expression “wasn’t a thing that people were pushing back on that much,” and that he believes “a lot of people” agree with his stand for freedom of expression.
He went on to talk about his thoughts on privacy as well, and how encryption is an important part of that. Some people claim that “tools for privacy are only important to help bad guys,” Zuckerberg stated. “I don’t believe that.”
I guess … this is the new approach, and I think it’s gonna piss off a lot of people, too, but, you know, frankly the old approach was pissing off a lot of people, too, so let’s try something different.