Zuckerberg Missteps in Vow to Clean up Social Media

Social media giant Facebook is continuing in its very public bid to restore consumer and user confidence after having to admit statistically staggering numbers of “fake” accounts and posts, as well as companies that thrived on collecting supposedly private information. In its most recent announcement, Facebook says it will be cracking down on “misleading and inflammatory” posts or content that “may trigger attacks…”

However, when pressed for specifics, CEO Mark Zuckerberg landed on an example he immediately wished to take back: Holocaust denial.

In recent comments relating what he saw as the line between offensive speech and speech that would be removed from Facebook, Zuckerberg insinuated that some people who deny the Holocaust do so with fair intentions and honest misunderstanding. As you might imagine, that kind of thing did not go over well on the internet, including on Zuckerberg’s on social network.

Very quickly, the CEO sought to undo the PR damage created by his statement, saying: “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that…”

Fair enough, sir, but that didn’t stop countless people online from making hay out of the previous comments. Criticism and confusion splashed all over Facebook as users tried to make sense out of, often, only snippets of the interview or carefully edited memes made of the comments.

Meanwhile Zuckerberg tried to move on, using a more current PR concern as an example of how his platform could do better. Many in the global community have said Facebook allowing partisans in the ongoing conflict in countries such as Myanmar and Sri Lanka to use the platform as a megaphone for their positions has created more strife and led to more violence.

Facebook used that criticism as an example of how the social network’s policy will shift, saying “misinformation” shared on the platform that is meant to “instigate or amplify violence” would be eliminated. Some such content would be flagged for study, so the company could try to gauge the direct impact of the content. Then, after any threat is confirmed, the content will be subsequently removed.

Zuckerberg once again said he saw a “substantial difference” between “false information” and “false information that can result in harm.” Content that incites upset feelings or arguments may not be flagged or targeted, but content that may lead to physical harm or incite violence would be tagged and eliminated. It’s a message that many of Facebook’s disaffected users are happy to hear… and one that should probably be delivered without any mention of the Holocaust.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5WPR.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

View more posts from this author