Any hope that Facebook has decided to take a new moral stand against conspiracy and hate speech content could be dashed, with leaked audio reportedly revealing Mark Zuckerberg is just doing it for the duration of the US election.
In the past few weeks, Facebook has finally taken the steps many said were overdue, outlawing conspiracy content and hate speech threads from its platform.
QAnon content has been banned from Facebook and Instagram, and Holocaust denial now is not being tolerated.
Those who have been campaigning for changes like these for years were relieved – including Australian man Dr Andre Oboler, CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute in Melbourne, who has been lobbying for this overhaul for a decade.
There was hope it was a sign Facebook was ready to take a moral and ethical stance on the way its users interacted on its platform.
Audio obtained from a Facebook conference call last week tells a different story – it reportedly contains CEO Mr Zuckerberg telling staff the changes were brought in to get ahead of any violence or backlash around the US election.
Mr Zuckerberg doesn’t intend to adopt similar policies in the future, the audio indicates, as obtained by Buzzfeed News US.
“Once we’re past these events, and we’ve resolved them peacefully, I wouldn’t expect that we continue to adopt a lot more policies that are restricting of a lot more content,” Mr Zuckerberg is heard saying.
“The basic answer is that this does not reflect a shift in our underlying philosophy or strong support of free expression.
“What it reflects is, in our view, an increased risk of violence and unrest, especially around the elections, and an increased risk of physical harm, especially around the time when we expect COVID vaccines to be approved over the coming months.”
How that has been interpreted as, Facebook trying to create a safety bubble around the election result in order to minimise any public violence.
The decision is likely heavily tinged also by memories of the 2016 election, where Donald Trump’s social media influence is thought to have played a key role in swaying the election.