Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has told Fox News that the company should step away from regulating online speech.
Speaking on Thursday (local time), Mr Zuckerberg appeared at pains to distance his company from Twitter and its fight with US President Donald Trump, as the White House moved to scrap a law protecting social media companies.
Mr Zuckerberg’s comments come two years after he admitted, under political pressure, that Facebook must do more to prevent disinformation campaigns on its platform
Mr Trump, who accuses social media firms of bias against conservatives, without evidence, stepped up his attacks on Twitter after the company put a fact-checking label on two of his tweets about mail-in ballots on Tuesday for the first time.
“We have a different policy I think than Twitter on this,” Mr Zuckerberg told Fox News.
“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.
“Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”
Both sites take down content that violates their terms of service, but Facebook’s approach, he said, has “distinguished us from some of the other tech companies in terms of being stronger on free expression and giving people a voice”.
While Facebook does apply labels to misleading posts, it exempts from review posts by politicians, a decision that some lawmakers and presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden say helps lies to flourish online.
Unlike Twitter, Facebook outsources its fact checking to media partners and says it takes no stance itself.
Two Australian satirical websites, The Shovel and The Chaser, lampooned Mr Zuckerberg’s statement by sharing parody stories with headlines filled with false claims about the Facebook CEO.
The Shovel’s headline incorrectly said the Facebook CEO had died, while The Chaser’s headline falsely called Mr Zuckerberg a “child molester.”
Faceboook’s split with Twitter comes despite Mr Zuckerberg’s more aggressive posture against misinformation in recent months, including pledges to wipe from Facebook’s apps any misleading posts about the novel coronavirus which could cause physical harm.
Facebook took down a coronavirus-related post from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in March. It also explicitly bans content that misrepresents methods for voting or voter registration “regardless of who it’s coming from”.
Mr Zuckerberg said Mr Trump’s comments on Tuesday did not hit Facebook’s bar to be considered in violation of its voter suppression rules.
Mr Trump had posted unsubstantiated claims on both Twitter and Facebook saying the governor of California was sending mail-in ballots to anyone living in the state, “no matter who they are or how they got there”, although ballots are only sent to registered voters.
Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said Mr Trump’s claims “may mislead people into thinking they don’t need to register to get a ballot” and hit back at the White House for pinning the decision on a mid-level Twitter staffer.
Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.
— jack (@jack) May 28, 2020
A Twitter spokeswoman said that senior executives, including Mr Dorsey, had approved the decision to label Mr Trump’s tweets.