Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg says the major social media companies should not position themselves as the gatekeepers of political speech online, as US President Donald Trump is threatening to regulate the firms.
The pronouncement seems to create a clear distinction between Facebook and Twitter, after the latter company fact-checked Trump this week and earned the president’s ire.
“I don’t think Facebook, or internet platforms in general, should be arbiters of truth,” Zuckerberg said in an interview that aired Thursday on CNBC, a cable news channel, calling this a “dangerous line.”
Trump will issue an executive order later Thursday on social media companies, the White House said.
The New York Times reported that the order could erode protections for those firms in terms of liability for content posted on their platforms.
However, in the short run, the order may stop at calling for federal agencies to better explain protections and set up working groups within the judiciary, limiting any serious changes to how social media giants conduct business.
“This will be a Big Day for Social Media and FAIRNESS!” Trump said on Twitter, hyping his own order.
Trump erupted in anger this week at Twitter after that platform attached a fact check to one of the president’s posts opposing mail-in ballots.
The fact check indicated the president was making false claims that voting by post would lead to mass fraud, amid a fight between Democrats and Trump over expanding people’s ability to cast their ballots in this election year amid a pandemic.
Twitter chief Jack Dorsey explained the tweet may have mislead voters into thinking they do not need to register for a ballot, indicating this was a particular category of concern as it could harm people’s ability to cast a vote.
Fact-checking “does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth,'” Dorsey said. “Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves.”
Using his Twitter soapbox, where he has more than 80 million followers, Trump alleged conservative voices were being silenced by online platforms and, if that continued, threatened to “strongly regulate, or close them down.”
Zuckerberg said that while Facebook does not want to be “determining what is true or false,” the company does have limits, including false medical information, voter suppression or hoaxes.
“There are lines, and we will enforce them,” Zuckerberg said.
“But, I think, in general, you want to give as wide a voice as possible, and give particular deference to political speech.”
In a separate interview with Fox, another cable channel, Zuckerberg said Facebook was determined to “give people a voice” and indicated he would also be opposed to government restrictions on free speech
“I’ll have to understand what they actually would intend to do, but, in general, I think a government choosing to censor a platform because they’re worried about censorship doesn’t exactly strike me as the right reflex there,” the Facebook founder said.