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Zuckerberg dodges responsibility for Capitol seat in congressional hearing

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified Thursday before a joint session of two House subcommittees on the subject of social media platforms promoting disinformation and extremist content.

Representatives repeatedly returned to the U.S. Capitol seat on January 6 in their questioning, urging Zuckerberg – along with Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey – about their responsibility for the violence.

Time and again, Zuckerberg has exaggerated his company’s efforts to control the spread of increasingly violent far-right disinformation on Facebook in the run-up to the riot, while avoiding taking responsibility for the role of Facebook in facilitating planning.

Asked by subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) Whether their platforms bear some responsibility in spreading disinformation related to the election and the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement that resulted in the attack on the Capitol, only Dorsey offered a qualified yes.

“You can remove this content, you can reduce the division, you can fix this problem – but you choose not to do it,” Doyle said in his opening statement. “You have the means, but each time, you prioritize commitment and profit over the health and safety of your users, our nation and our democracy.”

In a follow-up, Doyle pressed Zuckerberg lightly, asking how it’s “possible for you not to at least admit that Facebook played a leading role in recruiting, planning, and executing the attack on Capitol Hill. “

Zuckerberg responded by blaming former President Donald Trump, who for years used social media to spread lies and call for violence as Facebook largely looked away.

“I think the responsibility lies with the people who took the necessary steps to break the law and carry out the insurgency,” Zuckerberg said. “Second, also with the people who put this content out, including the president but others as well, with repeated speeches over time, saying the election was rigged and encouraging people to organize, I think. that these people also bear the primary responsibility. “

Zuckerberg has avoided giving a straightforward answer in subsequent questions, telling Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) That while the company has “still work” to do on moderation, its stance on Facebook’s role in the fomenting of the insurgency remained unchanged.

Zuckerberg also defended Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg for claiming, less than a week after the violent siege, that the riot was not “widely organized” on Facebook, but on other platforms “that did not not our capacities to stop hatred, not have our standards and do not have our transparency.

A week after Sandberg’s comments, a report from Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog group that oversees the Tech Transparency Project, concluded that the opposite was true.

“Not only [Sandberg’s] false claim, “the report said,” but it ignores the fact that Facebook spent the past year allowing election conspiracies and far-right militia activity to proliferate on its platform, laying the groundwork for the broader radicalization that fueled the Capitol uprising during the first place. “

Caroline Brehman via Getty Images

A cardboard cutout of Mark Zuckerberg’s head on a cutout of “QAnon Shaman” stands on the National Mall on Thursday, ahead of a hearing on the role of social media in promoting extremism and disinformation.

Thursday’s testimony follows a follow-up report from the TTP which found that, despite Zuckerberg’s claims, Facebook still hasn’t filled the “gaping holes” that allow militias to proliferate on the platform. Despite the platform leaders’ promise to curb far-right militias, TTP found that Facebook’s recommendation algorithm would likely make matters worse.

The report identified 201 militia pages and 13 militia groups on Facebook as of March 18. Of the 201 pages, 70% had the word “militia” in their headline, suggesting that the company’s auto-detection systems aren’t that good, or that the company isn’t taking them seriously. application.

TTP also found that 17% of militia pages were generated automatically by Facebook itself in an attempt to generate more likes and engagement on the site. The tactic echoes criticism from May 2020, when a separate TTP report found that Facebook was automatically generating pages for white supremacist groups.

“The dirty truth is that they are relying on algorithms to deliberately promote conspiratorial, divisive or extremist content so that they can raise the advertising funds,” the chairman of the Chamber’s energy and trade committee said on Thursday. , Frank Pallone (DN.J.).

“This is because the more outrageous and extremist the content, the more these companies are engaged and perceived by their users. More views, more money. “


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