Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want to be the content police. But he might not have a choice.
For years, Facebook has argued that it’s a platform for all ideas. Outside of obvious ethical violations — child pornography or terrorist propaganda, for example — it doesn’t want to take responsibility for determining what’s appropriate or inappropriate, or even what’s fact or fiction.
But as CEO of the world’s largest social network — a service he created — many believe that responsibility does fall to Zuckerberg. Who else should be making Facebook’s rules?
In an interview with Recode on Wednesday to discuss the company’s recent privacy scandal, Zuckerberg showed some frustration with the idea that as Facebook’s CEO, many expect him to create and enforce values for the service that are applicable to all of Facebook’s two billion users.
Zuckerberg tried to explain why it’s a tough challenge by pointing out that it can be hard to walk the line between freedom of speech and hate speech. He mentioned that people don’t always agree on when or if something crosses that line.
“What I would really like to do is find a way to get our policies set in a way that reflects the values of the community, so I am not the one making those decisions,” Zuckerberg said. “I feel fundamentally uncomfortable sitting here in California in an office making content policy decisions for people around the world.”
But then Zuckerberg said something else we haven’t heard before, which is that even though making these kinds of policy decisions make him uncomfortable, he may no longer have a choice.
“Things like, ‘Where’s the line on hate speech?’ I mean, who chose me to be the person that did that?” Zuckerberg continued. “I guess I have to, because we’re here now, but I’d rather not.”
I guess I have to, because we’re here now.
In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, while Facebook still grapples with issues of fake news, filter bubbles and the negative health effects of social media, it seems clear that Zuckerberg is realizing that his “we want to please everyone” approach may not be working as planned.
Zuckerberg clearly isn’t jumping at the idea of telling the world where the line is on hate speech. But his statement also demonstrates that he’s recognized what many have been waiting for the CEO to see for some time: That Facebook needs more consistent and enforceable values, and it should be up to Zuckerberg and the other smart people at Facebook to create them.
This doesn’t mean Zuckerberg is going to sit down tomorrow and write new policy rules for Facebook. But it’s a sign that he’s frustrated that his efforts to please everybody — and avoid any accusations of bias — might not be working the way that he hoped.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.