Social network giant under EU pressure for not editing hateful and illegal posts.
Facebook faces more pressure from lawmakers in Europe, after Germany’s interior minister called on the company to quickly remove hateful and illegal posts—on the same day that its chief Mark Zuckerberg reiterated that the free content ad network wouldn’t morph into a media empire.
The call from Thomas de Maiziere comes less than a week since a committee of MPs in the UK concluded that Twitter, Google, and Facebook were “consciously failing” to police extremism on their services.
“Facebook should take down racist content or calls for violence from its pages on its own initiative even if it hasn’t yet received a complaint,” said de Maiziere on Monday. “Facebook has an immensely important economic position and just like every other large enterprise it has a immensely important social responsibility.”
But Facebook—which fired the human editors of its Trending feature and replaced them with a less-than-perfect algorithm on Friday—is cagey about being seen to edit the content that is shared on its site because it does not want to be labelled a publisher. The moment it does that, Zuckerberg’s firm would be open to domestic libel laws.
Indeed, Zuckerberg reaffirmed exactly that stance on Monday during a live Q&A session in Italy, following a private audience with Pope Francis. “No, we’re a tech company, we’re not a media company,” he said, after a pause, when asked by a participant if Facebook was an “editor” of news.
He added that Facebook builds “the tools, we do not produce any of the content.”
Zuckerberg said: “We exist to give you the tools to curate… every person gets to program their own Facebook experience.” He went on to describe social media as “the most diverse form of media that has ever existed.”
Germany’s interior minister de Maiziere, however, is concerned about the lack of swift interaction from Facebook when its comes to removing posts that carry hate speech or illegal content.
Facebook’s public policy head in Germany, Eva-Maria Kirschsieper, responded to that criticism by telling reporters: “We see ourselves as part of German society and part of the German economy. And we know that we have a major responsibility and we want to live up to this responsibility. We take this issue very seriously indeed.”