Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is facing calls to break up the company on the campaign trail, mounting antitrust inquiries from federal and state authorities, and the looming prospect of 2020 disinformation campaigns that could again kick his company’s arse. So he’s emerged from his gilded panic room more regularly as of late, this time sitting down for an interview with MSNBC’s Lester Holt.
Zuckerberg swayed clear of some of his recent, eyebrow-raising claims — for example, that Facebook could have prevented the Iraq War and its hundreds of thousands of resulting deaths. But he did dodge a question about whether he feels responsible for our ongoing national disinformation nightmare with some gobbledygook about his platforms are “used” in “different ways,” which has “effects.” Specifically, ones so massive that they will only be fully understood in the context of world history, but also so vague that you can’t pin them on him at this exact moment.
“I certainly feel responsible for how our platforms are used,” Zuckerberg told Holt. “... They’re used in a lot of different ways. That’s going to be studied by academics and historians for a long time to come, what the overall effect is… There are a lot of effects.”
(In other words, Facebook’s exports are numerous in amount and it is a land of contrasts.)
“Obviously, one of the bad ones is nation-states trying to interfere in our democracy,” Zuckerberg added. “And that’s one that we need to push back on.”
(Also alleged complicity in genocide.)
Pressed for details on what Facebook was in fact doing to prevent other nations from meddling in U.S. elections, Zuckerberg pointed to the conveniently timed announcement on Monday that the company had took down four suspected foreign interference campaigns originating from Russia and Iran.
Facebook said that one of them appeared to be linked to a Russian operation called the Internet Research Agency, a well-known troll farm suspected of running disinformation campaigns dating to before the 2016 elections. This campaign involved 50 fake Instagram accounts and a Facebook account with 246,000 followers, cumulatively sending over 75,000 posts.
“We do see today Russia and Iran and China increasingly with more sophisticated tactics are trying to interfere in elections,” Zuckerberg told Holt. “But part of why I’m confident going into 2020 is that we’ve played a role in defending against interference in every major election around the world since 2016, in France, in Germany, in the EU overall, in India, in Mexico, in Brazil.”
(Facebook and its subsidiaries’ roles in enabling shadowy political propaganda disinformation campaigns, regardless of their origins, have failed to inspire much confidence in France, in Germany, in the EU overall, in Mexico, in India, and in Brazil.)
“We continue to see their tactics are evolving,” Zuckerberg added. “Today, what we’re basically announcing is that we found a set of campaigns. They are highly sophisticated. They signal that these nation-states intend to be active in the upcoming elections… That we’ve been able to proactively identify them and take them down is somewhat of a signal that our systems are much more advanced now than they have been in the past.”
Elsewhere in the interview, however, Zuckerberg explained why it was fine for politicians like Donald Trump to openly lie and use racial slurs in political ads on his site: “I believe that it is important for people to be able to hear and see what politicians are saying. I think that when they do that, that speech will be heavily scrutinised by other journalists, by other people.”
So the company profiting by essentially creating reality-distortion Superfund sites thinks that’s fine so long as someone cleans it up (spoiler: it metastasizes instead). It’s almost like all of these policies are cynical attempts to justify whatever’s best for the company line!
The Facebook CEO also addressed reports that he’s been cozying up to prominent American right-wing figures ranging from U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham to logic shitlord Ben Shapiro amid unrelenting conspiracy theories that the site suppresses conservatives: “I think that has been pretty ridiculous. I talk to a lot of people all the time in running this company… We operate in a lot of different places. You know, I’m running a company where I’m trying to make sure that we can give everyone a voice.”
No Zuckerberg interview would be complete without a weird aside into his personal life. Holt asked Zuckerberg on the amount of criticism he’s received and how he felt about his children entering the internet he’s helped create.
“I’ve been in the public eye since I was 19,” Zuckerberg. “And a lot of my personal experience has been that people say a lot of false things about you... Look, historically I’ve had a very hard time expressing myself. I just come across as robotic. This is one of the things that in growing up I need to get, I need to get better at in running this company.”
“Of course, I want to know that when my girls grow up that they’re going to be able to say that, their dad made the world better and stood up for what he believed in,” Zuckerberg added. He’s certainly standing up for something, anyhow.