Recently, CEOs of various social media and information platforms were called to testify in a U.S. Congressional hearing. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were under the spotlight in relation to misinformation and vitriolic coordination taking place on the platforms, especially in relation to the January 6 insurrection that took place at the Senate Capitol Building in Washington D.C. In particular, the participants were asked if they felt their platforms were responsible for misinformation surrounding the event and coordination leading up to it.
For his part, Mark Zuckerberg claimed primary fault was with the “people who spread the content” on Facebook, rather than Facebook itself. This opinion was lodged live during the hearing hosted by CNBC on March 25, 2021. When Zuckerberg was asked directly how it was possible to deny that Facebook played a role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection, given its use to coordinating the gathering that caused it, Zuckerberg put primary blame on the participants that used the platform to spread the misinformation and organize for the event.
“The FBI has released numerous documents showing that many of the insurrectionists used Facebook to coordinate and plan the attack on January 6,” Pennsylvania US House Rep Mike Doyle stated during the hearing in address of Zuckerberg. “So my question is, how is it possible for you to not admit that Facebook played a central or leading role in facilitating the recruitment, planning, and execution of the attack on the capitol?”
“I think that the responsibility here lies with the people who took the actions to break the law and do the insurrection,” Zuckerberg replied. “And secondarily, also, the people who spread that content, including the President, but others as well, with repeated rhetoric over time, saying the election was rigged and encouraging people to organize. I think that those people bear the primary responsibility as well.”
Facebook was among those who banned former President Donald Trump from its platform after it became increasingly clear that Trump used his platform to engage vitriolic misinformation campaigns in regards to the 2020 Presidential Election which led up to the insurrection. Even so, Zuckerberg’s statement in the hearing today seems to imply the ease with which to spread misinformation via the Facebook platform and organize events like the violent insurrection fall less within Facebook’s responsibility and more in the responsibility of those who use the platform that way.
As the use, spread, and control of information and misinformation on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google continues to come under question both in general and throughout political discourse, Zuckerberg’s statements arguably provide insight (for better or worse) into the moods that dictate the official response to damaging and dangerous activities on these platforms. It will remain to be seen what comes of it in regards to federal action or policy.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Zuckerberg blames insurrection planning via Facebook primarily on 'people who spread the content'
Anything but him and his platform.