From visiting every U.S. state to learning Mandarin, Mark Zuckerberg has a habit of setting lofty New Year’s resolutions.
This year, Facebook’s founder and CEO just made what is perhaps his most ambitious pledge yet: To cleanse his social network of trolls, purveyors of false and misleading information, and other bad actors.
“We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools,” Zuckerberg admits in a new blog post.
In so many words, the young mogul accepted some responsibility for forces dividing people in this country and worldwide. “The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do,” he acknowledged.
The solution, according to Zuckerberg, requires input from experts in the fields of history, civics, political philosophy, media, government, and technology. “I’m looking forward to bringing groups of experts together to discuss and help work through these topics,” he said.
Personally, Zuckerberg seems to be grappling with Facebook’s position in the world, and the immense power and influence it holds.
“A lot of us got into technology because we believe it can be a decentralizing force that puts more power in people's hands,” he said. “With the rise of a small number of big tech companies [like Facebook] -- and governments using technology to watch their citizens -- many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it.”
Along with slowing user growth, Facebook’s inability to curb hate speech and deceptive content represents the biggest existential threat to the company.
Among other repercussions, German officials recently vowed to fine Facebook and other tech giants more than $60 million if they can’t keep their networks clear of “obviously illegal” content, hate speech and fake news.
While it may grab users’ attention, negative and deceitful content is increasingly leaving consumers cold, research suggests.
Compared to average app users, social app users were 3.2 times more likely to be in a negative mood, according to recent findings from mobile video ad firm AdColony.
Facebook is not the only network trying to curb negative and disturbing content. In December, Twitter started cracking down on what it considers to be “hateful” content.
Zuckerberg is also engaged in a wider effort to foster more authentic engagement on Facebook, including tasking teams with reviewing and categorized hundreds of thousands of posts, which guide a machine-learning model in order to detect different types of engagement bait.
Facebook also recently agreed to implement stricter demotions for Pages that systematically and repeatedly use engagement bait to artificially gain reach in News Feed.