|Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Lex Fridman’s podcast last week, fielding questions about artificial intelligence, free speech, and the impact of the Twitter Files. Zuckerberg tried—and seems to have failed—to reassure Fridman that social media companies rather than the government were ultimately in the driver’s seat when it comes to moderating content.
“There’s so much pressure from all sides that any specific thing that someone says isn’t really adding that much more to the mix,” said Zuckerberg. “There’s obviously a lot of people who think that we should be censoring more content. There are a lot of people who think we should be censoring less content. There are all kinds of groups involved in these debates. There are elected officials, the agencies, the medias, activist groups.”
The fact that different interest groups—both within the federal government and outside it—are all attempting to exert influence on the platforms means that they aren’t captured by a specific entity, in Zuckerberg’s view. But for people who worry about the pressure on the companies in general, regardless of which direction it’s coming from, Zuckerberg’s comments were hardly encouraging.
Zuckerberg also accused the government health officials of losing the trust of the American people by prematurely shutting off debate on COVID-19 topics—an implicit suggestion that the CEO perhaps regrets some of his company’s moderation decisions.
“Just take some of the stuff around COVID earlier in the pandemic where there were real health implications, but there hadn’t been time to fully vet a bunch of the scientific assumptions,” said Zuckerberg. “Unfortunately, I think a lot of the kind of establishment on that kind of waffled on a bunch of facts and asked for a bunch of things to be censored that, in retrospect, ended up being more debatable or true. That stuff is really tough, right? It really undermines trust.”