Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook won't remove anti-vaccine posts despite Covid concerns

By Edward Helmore

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he “hopes” his social network will not effectively destroy society as we know it.

Zuckerberg also said it’s “just wrong” to consider that Facebook is driven by conservatives, in a new interview.

“I don’t think that the service is a rightwing echo chamber,” Zuckerberg told Axios on HBO in an interview published Wednesday. “Everyone can use their voice and find media they trust that reflects the opinions and life experiences they’re having.”

In the interview, Zuckerberg rejected the proposition that history will remember Facebook for hastening the destruction of society.

“I have a little more confidence in democracy than that. And I hope my confidence isn’t misplaced,” he said, adding: “What we do, and I think a lot of what the internet does overall, is give individuals more power.”

Still, Zuckerberg acknowledged that conservative voices and opinions rank as Facebook’s most engaged content.

“It’s true that partisan content often has kind of a higher percent of people … engaging with it, commenting on it, liking it,” Zuckerberg said. “But I think it’s important to differentiate that from, broadly, what people are seeing and reading and learning about on our service.”

Also in the Axios interview, the Facebook chief said he would not remove anti-vaxxer posts, even as the leading virus experts express cautious optimism that a Covid-19 vaccination may become available late this year or early next year.

“If someone is pointing out a case where a vaccine caused harm or that they’re worried about it – you know, that’s a difficult thing to say from my perspective that you shouldn’t be allowed to express at all,” Zuckerberg said.

But he denied that Facebook’s algorithms are designed to push viewpoints “that are going to kind of enrage people somehow, and that’s what we try to show people”.

“That’s not actually how our systems work,” he added.

Zuckerberg reasoned instead that many people in the country “are very exercised and I think, frankly, for a lot of good reasons. And we have real issues. There is a fine line between an important level of high energy around an important issue and something that can kind of tilt over into causing harm.”

In an acknowledgement of Facebook’s power in promoting misinformation, the company last week said it would block political advertising on the platform for seven days ahead of November’s presidential election to help prevent the spread of misinformation.

But he rejected a 30-day hold on political ads, saying that would be different because “people want to be able to run get-out-the-vote campaigns”, as well as respond to attacks and make closing arguments.

Zuckerberg added that one red line he would decisively draw would be over threats to election officials – threats that “would obviously undermine the legitimacy of the election.”

Facebook, he added, would be “very aggressively take down any threats against those people who are going to be involved in doing the counting and making sure that the election goes the way it’s supposed to”.