Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence today regarding the violent attacks in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend and the ongoing conversation around hosting hate groups online. In a message posted on Facebook, Zuckerberg said the company is “watching the situation closely and will take down threats of physical harm,” noting that more neo-Nazi and white supremacist rallies are planned. “We won’t always be perfect, but you have my commitment that we’ll keep working to make Facebook a place where everyone can feel safe,” Zuckerberg wrote. Later on, in a more strongly worded tone, Zuckerberg said, “It’s a disgrace that we still need to say that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are wrong — as if this is somehow not obvious.”
Facebook has always had policies against hate speech and violent threats, but it has sometimes been slow to remove posts that include them. This latest pledge indicates the company is taking criticisms about how quickly it responds to reports of hate speech and threats of violence more seriously. Zuckerberg’s message, which came four days after the “Unite the Right” that rally left counter-protestor Heather Heyes dead and many others injured, arrived later than some other prominent chief executives. The rallies drew more calls for unity from the corporate world after a series of perplexing remarks blaming “both sides” from President Trump, in a move that ultimately emboldened white supremacists.
Facebook did take the unusual step of scrubbing its site of a hateful blog post targeting Heyer written by the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer, which later had its web hosting canceled by GoDaddy and Google and, eventually, even the more free speech-friendly CloudFlare. Zuckerberg’s comments offer support for the move at a time when other platform companies including Twitter, Discord, GoFundMe, and Airbnb are cracking down on hate groups.
“It’s important that Facebook is a place where people with different views can share their ideas. Debate is part of a healthy society. But when someone tries to silence others or attacks them based on who they are or what they believe, that hurts us all and is unacceptable,” Zuckerberg wrote. “There may always be some evil in the world, and maybe we can’t do anything about that. But there’s too much polarization in our culture, and we can do something about that. There’s not enough balance, nuance, and depth in our public discourse, and I believe we can do something about that. We need to bring people closer together, and I know we can make progress at that.”