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Zuckerberg Walks Back Defense of Holocaust Deniers' Rights, Highlights Facebook's Big Problem

Let's just bring back Friendster.

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Intrepid tech journalist Kara Swisher, Editor at Large of Recode, landed a major interview this week with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Swisher was very vocal on social media during the Congressional hearings on Cambridge Analytica earlier this year. She felt that Zuckerberg had gotten off easy as many Senators lobbed softball questions at the billionaire CEO of the world's largest social network. Facebook finally invited Swisher down to their headquarters in Menlo Park, California to discuss a range of issues mainly focusing on the company's management of user data, fake news, and hate speech. 

One of the most baffling moments of the nearly 90 minute interview on the Recode Decode podcast was a moment when Facebook's CEO defended the rights of holocaust deniers on his platform. "I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened," said Zuckerberg. "I find that deeply offensive. 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. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong..." 

For a company that is at the center of the fake news epidemic, it is simply baffling to hear the CEO defend users' rights to post false information. "What we will do is we’ll say, 'Okay, you have your page, and if you’re not trying to organize harm against someone, or attacking someone, then you can put up that content on your page, even if people might disagree with it or find it offensive.' But that doesn’t mean that we have a responsibility to make it widely distributed in News Feed." 

Zuckerberg continually dodged Swisher's direct question about InfoWars, breaking down the company's core philosophy. "There are really two core principles at play here. There’s giving people a voice, so that people can express their opinions. Then, there’s keeping the community safe, which I think is really important." 

Facebook's desire to give people a voice comes with the trade-offs of free speech, but this highlights the biggest problem with the platform. People have the right to share false information, which can go viral. To manually moderate the two billion monthly active users is impossible, and the company is leaning heavily on AI to help prevent potential harm to the community.

Shacknews was affected by these changes earlier this year when Facebook labeled our site as spam, deleting 90 percent of our posts without warning. An even dumber example of the flaw in trusting AI for moderation of posts occurred during E3 2018, when Shacknews attempted to run two video advertisements on Facebook for our Chairpet of the Board election. My dog Lola's satirical campaign video was approved for a boost on Facebook while our Video Editor Greg Burke's cat Nessie was rejected by Facebook's artificial intelligence. 

Facebook has created a platform where hate speech, and fake news continues to fester. They are a publicly traded company with a profit motive, and the sentiments shared today by Mark Zuckerberg shouldn't leave anyone more confident in Facebook's ability to properly protect their community from false information. Much of what the CEO said in the interview with Kara Swisher was recycled PR mumbo jumbo, but when he attempted to speak from the heart he created another outrage online as he defended the rights of deniers of the holocaust. After the piece ran on Recode.net, Zuckerberg provided an update. “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.”

It isn't about Zuckerberg's personal feelings about Holocaust deniers. It is the fact that he is willingly defending his users rights to post false information. Facebook boosted plenty of fake news leading up to the 2016 election, and we can only hope that they will be as strict leading up to this Fall's midterm elections as they were denying our Chairpet of the Board advertisement for Nessie the cat.

Zuckerberg was also pushed by Swisher regarding the Cambridge Analytica debacle to hold someone at the company accountable to which he replied, "But look, I designed the platform, so if someone’s going to get fired for this, it should be me." If only, Zuck. If only.

Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

From The Chatty

    • reply
      July 19, 2018 4:52 PM

      Helluva headline there.

      • reply
        July 19, 2018 4:59 PM

        Darkest Timeline.

        • reply
          July 19, 2018 6:21 PM

          Nope, original Big Bird was supposed to be on the Challenger. He got booted from the mission in the planning stages because the costume wouldn’t fit.

          There is some timeline where NASA made it work, and millions of kids watched Big Bird get onto the space shuttle and die live on TV.


          No matter how dark this timeline is, the big bird died in the challenger explosion is way darker.

          • reply
            July 19, 2018 6:39 PM

            Right, yes, a new American ethnic and cultural genocide is just peanuts to Big Bird dying in Challenger.

            Spot on there.

          • reply
            July 19, 2018 6:41 PM

            I realize this is at least in part a "jestful" troll, but seriously dude, naw. Fuck that.

            At the best of times it's annoying and with these stakes it's callous.

            • reply
              July 19, 2018 6:42 PM

              I mean there’s a timeline where everything that’s happening is also happening, but also Big Bird died in the Challenger disaster. That’s darker,

              • reply
                July 19, 2018 6:46 PM

                ...Sure, I suppose that's probably a very slightly darker version of the timeline for a fraction of the population.

    • reply
      July 19, 2018 5:01 PM

      What a fucking idiot. Like, how dumb do you have to be to think that's something that is ok to say?

      • Zek
        reply
        July 19, 2018 8:24 PM

        I mean, it was quite a concise summary of his position. I'm glad he made it clear.

    • reply
      July 19, 2018 5:11 PM

      I don’t understand the article, and I admit, I’m somewhat ignorant on the subject, but the article seems to provide a lot of complaining and not a great deal of solutions.

      The article even states that manually fixing the problem is impossible, so they’re using AI. I get that it’s not perfect, but they’re trying. I see no other proposals.

      Zuckerberg’s point about holocaust deniers seems fair to me. How do you differentiate between someone who is looney toons vs someone intentionally spreading false information. Most holocaust deniers, to my knowledge, generally believe it didn’t happen, because they’re crazy.

      Are we not allowed to share any conspiracy theories on Facebook? If I share a story that implies Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone, am I spreading false information? I mean is the slippery slope not really obvious to see?

      At what point are people held personally responsible for believing every headline they see on Facebook? If people are that dumb, maybe they deserve what happens to them. Maybe things like a better education system should be more of a priority and less what the great Zuckerberg can personally do to save all of our society.

      • reply
        July 19, 2018 5:19 PM

        If people are that dumb, maybe they deserve what happens to them.

        People are being murdered because of people on FB/WhatsApp/etc believing fake news. They don't deserve to die because some other idiots are on the platform.

        • reply
          July 19, 2018 5:28 PM

          Point to me the people who are dieing because crazy old ladies believe that cats talk and that soap operas are real.

            • reply
              July 19, 2018 5:41 PM

              None of those people were manipulated by crazy old cat ladies. And I'd guess that there might be a law that covers inciting violence (IANALFI)

              • reply
                July 19, 2018 5:51 PM

                I was refuting the idea that somehow the fake news is OK because the victims are the idiots who believed it. That simply isn't the case at a small scale (these murders) or a large scale (the US election).

                • reply
                  July 19, 2018 5:57 PM

                  There's a fine line between hostile manipulation and eccentric. I'm strongly against suppressing free speech in an attempt to eliminate unprotected speech. I can strongly disagree with flat earthers and holocaust deniers based on simple facts and logic, while supporting their rights. Again, suppressing free, protected, speech is a very, very bad idea.

                  • reply
                    July 19, 2018 6:36 PM

                    beliefs that Jews are subhuman filth to be exterminated is not free, protected speech on facebook.com, shacknews.com or at any other private business. Facebook clearly disagrees with you as well, since they are suppressing various forms of speech they deem too dangerous. Holocaust denial apparently doesn't meet the bar. People familiar with holocaust denial will most likely tell you how important it is to stop the spread of those ideas.

                    • reply
                      July 19, 2018 7:33 PM

                      Beliefs are not speech. Period. Expression of beliefs on the other hand, can be unlawful and / or unprotected. And while holocaust denial can be hateful or crazy, and people are free to express it, it's hard to legally suppress until a clearer threshold is crossed. And to be clear, we're talking about state censored speech: the government, state and local police, and such. And sure, some a-hole spouting off about the holocaust might get punched in the face, and that might fall under fighting words (IANAL). But still, under no circumstance, do I want the authorities rounding people up for personal beliefs. Until they cross the line, while regrettable, they are still free citizens. And also, last I checked, posting stupid shit on Facebook wasn't a right, it's a priveledge.

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                        July 19, 2018 7:53 PM

                        facebook is not the government

                        they have the ability to be more selective about content

                        id also argue they have some responsibility to be a better platform

                        these morons shouldnt be censored by the government or arrested, but they should absolutely be ignored by everyone

          • reply
            July 19, 2018 6:40 PM

            i am confident you are smarter than this comically naive reduction of the problem

            don't go too internet on us, capt tripps

      • reply
        July 19, 2018 5:20 PM

        I am not trying to provide any solutions. In fact, the balance of free speech and curation of fake news is the problem at Facebook. I was highlighting a great interview done by another outlet. Should probably listen to the whole podcast that is embedded in the article. Or click the multiple links to the transcription of the entire interview.

        I also provided two anecdotes about AI screwing over our site while allowing hate speech and fake news to continue to be posted on FB.

    • reply
      July 19, 2018 5:32 PM

      Feels like Zuckerberg never actually moved on from his origin of FaceSmash - a hot or not rip off. His platforms are just entertainment to him, entertainment that feeds a massive empire built from ads and selling user information.

      The recent apology ad ( https://youtu.be/Q4zd7X98eOs ) they continue to run where they claim to want to fix things but at the same time imply the problem is always from an external force really told me how little responsibility they feel. "We had to deal with spam, clickbait and fake news." Those lines in particular really irritate me. The people who control the platform and happily sell access to their users make it sound like they were taken advantage of.

      I see zero responsibility from this guy: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/business/facebook-zuckerberg-apologies/?utm_term=.7fcb9fe92237

      • reply
        July 19, 2018 5:43 PM

        The standout line to me was "But then something happened:", because it didn't include the phrase "we sold all your personal information in order to make a shitload of money" immediately afterwards, proving the rest of the statement as disingenuous bullshit.

        • reply
          July 19, 2018 5:52 PM

          we sold all your personal information in order to make a shitload of money" immediately afterwards, proving the rest of the statement as disingenuous bullshit.

          Speaking of disingenuous bullshit

    • reply
      July 19, 2018 5:35 PM

      A billionaire turns out to be a real asshole?!?!

      • reply
        July 19, 2018 5:36 PM

        Funny, they actually talked about that at the beginning of the interview. Kara said she wasn’t sure if he was an asshole yet.

    • reply
      July 19, 2018 5:54 PM

      I haven't listened to the interview, but in other countries, Facebook willingly removes misinformation that countries to violence: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/18/technology/facebook-to-remove-misinformation-that-leads-to-violence.html

      it's a huge issue in myanmar where facebook essentially is the internet and news media. it's often people's sole source of information. and in the recent genocide of the rohingya—let's call it what it was—it was a vector for violence.

    • reply
      July 19, 2018 6:23 PM

      break it up

    • reply
      July 19, 2018 6:25 PM

      There are Holocaust deniers?

      What the fuck.

      • reply
        July 19, 2018 6:48 PM

        I just call them "Closeted Nazis"

      • reply
        July 19, 2018 7:28 PM

        You’ve never heard of this before? Yea, there’s a lot of them actually. Especially among white nationalists and parts of the Middle East