Rebuilding Facebook’s content enforcement mechanisms to weed out harmful content could take 3 years or longer, said the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post on his Facebook page Friday. “The good news is we started this in 2017, so even though this work will extend through 2019, I do expect us to end this year on a significantly better trajectory than when we entered it,” he added.
Zuckerberg said that he would reveal more about the company’s plans to fight abuse in the near future in a series of posts. “The first note will be about the steps we’re taking to prevent election interference on Facebook, which is timely with the US midterms and Brazilian Presidential elections approaching,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I’ll write about privacy, encryption and business models, and then about content governance and enforcement as well in the coming months.”
Facebook has been under continued scrutiny over its role in the spreading of misinformation and its data sharing policies. Just this week, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg traveled to Washington D.C. to testify on Capitol Hill about foreign governments using social media to influence U.S. politics. And last month, Facebook and other tech giants disclosed a new covert influence campaign run by groups aligned with Iranian state media.
On Friday, Zuckerberg acknowledged that the company inevitably had to deal with all kinds of abuse. “When you build services that are used by billions of people across countries and cultures, you will see all of the good humanity is capable of, and people will try to abuse those services in every way possible,” he wrote. “It is our responsibility to amplify the good and mitigate the bad.”
Facebook has in the past primarily relied on its users to report abusive content, and has employed an army of contractors to review these reports and take down posts that violate the company’s policies. Zuckerberg has for some time talked about augmenting those efforts with artificial intelligence to proactively find and filter abusive content — something that’s a significant technical challenge, even for a company the size of Facebook.
But fighting abuse isn’t just about developing better technology. Zuckerberg argued Friday that it was also about making trade-offs. “Encryption increases privacy and security for individuals but makes it more difficult to fight misinformation and hate at scale,” he wrote. “Requiring verification for ads and pages makes election interference more difficult, but it also creates roadblocks for dissidents and smaller, less well-funded groups engaging in those debates.”