“‘We don’t want to be deciding what’s true and false.’ ”
That was Meta Platforms Inc.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast on Thursday.
In a wide-ranging interview that lasted nearly three hours, the leader of the company formerly known as Facebook spoke with popular Spotify
host Rogan about the company’s new virtual-reality headset hitting in October, as well as the role of sites like Facebook and Instagram and archrival Twitter
in content moderation.
But it was Zuckerberg’s comments about how Facebook treated posts that could have spread misinformation ahead of the 2020 presidential election that sparked the most Twitter chatter on Friday, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, accusing the FBI and Big Tech of “silencing” news stories.
This stemmed from Rogan’s pressing Zuckerberg on Facebook’s moderation of the New York Post’s controversial 2020 story about the contents of laptop that reportedly had belonged to Hunter Biden. A refresher: Shortly before the Nov. 3, 2020, election, the Post published unconfirmed allegations of influence peddling by Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, with a Ukrainian company. The report ran purported emails from Hunter Biden that were retrieved from a laptop said to have been abandoned at a repair facility in Delaware and then reportedly supplied to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who was said to have provided them to the Post.
The unlikely account of how the emails surfaced raised immediate questions about Russian involvement, particularly because U.S. officials had warned that Russia — which backed Trump’s 2016 campaign through hacking and a covert social-media campaign — was interfering again. So both Facebook and Twitter limited the sharing of the article initially, before reversing course amid allegations of censorship.
Zuckerberg told Rogan that Facebook took warnings from the FBI about foreign influence in the 2020 election and polarizing content seriously at the time.
“The FBI basically came to us … [saying], ‘Hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert. We thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election. We have it on notice that basically there is about to be some kind of dump that’s similar to that, so just be vigilant,’ ” Zuckerberg said.
And while Zuckerberg said he didn’t remember whether the FBI had mentioned the Post’s laptop story in its 2020 warning, the article “fit the pattern.” So Facebook tapped third-party fact checkers, instead of deciding what was true or false itself, because Zuckerberg said he doesn’t want Facebook to be the “ministry of truth.”
Key Words (May 2020): ‘Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth,’ Zuckerberg tells Fox News
Also see (June 2020): Some of the people who literally helped write Facebook’s community standards say Zuckerberg is wrong on Trump posts
“I didn’t get into this to basically judge those things. I got into this to design technology that helps people connect,” he added.
But many listeners, and others, seized on the FBI warning to Facebook as evidence of election meddling, leading Zuckerberg’s name to trend on Twitter on Friday.
The New York Post’s parent company, NYP Holdings Inc., and MarketWatch publisher Dow Jones Inc. are properties of News Corp.
All but drowned out by the buzz from the FBI remarks, Zuckerberg also announced that his company’s new VR headset will launch in October, the same month Meta is expected to hold its Connect VR conference. The sequel to the Oculus 2 will allow for greater facial recognition and movement patterns, which will make digital avatars more advanced than they were before.
“There’s more nonverbal communication when people are with each other than verbal communication,” Zuckerberg told Rogan. “When you’re on a video call you don’t actually feel like you’re there with the person. To me, what virtual reality unlocks is that it really convinces your brain that you’re there.”
See: Spotify’s Joe Rogan says he rejected Trump as podcast guest: ‘I don’t want to help him’
In 2021, Facebook rebranded itself Meta in an effort to pivot some of its business toward the metaverse and virtual-reality endeavors. The name change reflects the company’s move into what it called the “next evolution of social technology.“