Mark Zuckerberg has been in hot water this week thanks to comments he made during an interview with Kara Swisher about the kinds of content that should and shouldn’t be removed from the platform.
Zuckerberg brought up Holocaust deniers as an example, saying he found them “deeply offensive,” then added, “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.” (In a follow-up email, Zuckerberg repeated that he found Holocaust denial to be “deeply offensive” and said, “I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”)
In light of the ensuing controversy, it seems worth bringing up some old posts by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington — from all the way back in 2009, when Arrington highlighted an effort by Brian Cuban to get Holocaust denial groups removed from the social network.
Those posts drew comments from a number of Facebook employees, including Adam Mosseri, who’s currently the VP of product management in charge of the Facebook News Feed, and Andrew Bosworth, who took over the company’s hardware efforts last year.
We’re exhuming these old comments not as a “gotcha!” moment, but simply as a reminder that this is a longstanding debate, one in which senior Facebook figures (some of whom took pains to emphasize that they were speaking for themselves, not the company) have articulated a pretty consistent position. Here’s Mosseri, for example:
I don’t understand how one can rationalize censorship, no matter how wrong or evil the message. It’s not the place of government, news media or communication platforms to tell anyone what they can or cannot say.
And here’s Bosworth:
Yelling fire in a crowded building isn’t protected (legally or morally) because it directly infringes on the physical safety of others, something they have a right to in our moral judgement. I think it is pretty clear that these groups pose no such imminent threat. They are distasteful and ignorant to all of us, but they should not be shut down unless they pose a credible threat to the physical safety of others, such as through threats of violence.
And here’s Ezra Callahan, who was then on the PR team:
You do not combat ignorance by trying to cover up that ignorance exists. You confront it head on. Facebook will do the world no good by trying to become its thought police.
There’s a lot more discussion in the original post.