Attempts to turn social media into an exclusive club where only elites have a right to speak in the name of rooting out dangerous misinformation are fundamentally wrong, a senior Meta official said.
Andrew Bosworth, who leads technological research at Meta and is set to become the tech giant’s CTO next year, pushed back against critics who accuse social media like Facebook of harming society by failing to police speech on their platforms.
“If your democracy can’t tolerate the speech of people, I’m not sure what kind of democracy it is,” he said in an interview with ‘Axios on HBO’, which was previewed on Sunday. He was responding to a statement by host Ina Fried that some people think tools like Facebook should not exist at all because they are “fundamentally unsafe”.
I do believe in giving people more access to information and more access to connect with one another, and not reserving those tools to some small number of elite people.
US-based social media, Facebook in particular, have been put under increased pressure to increasingly police their platforms so that they are not used by ‘malicious’ actors. The initial push came after the 2016 election based on the claim that Russia used memes to interfere with the political process. More recently, the justification for censorship was that misinformation about Covid-19 and health was running rampant online.
Bosworth reiterated his discomfort over attempts to turn Facebook into an arbiter of what speech should be considered malicious and banned. Even using third-party checkers to do the job is far from a perfect solution, he said.
Our ability to know what is misinformation is itself in question, and I think reasonably so.
“I am very uncomfortable with the idea that we possess fundamental rightness even in our most scientific centers of study to exercise that kind of power on a citizen, another human, and what they want to say, and who they want to listen to,” he said.