Nick Clegg, Meta Platforms’ president for global affairs, said Facebook’s parent company would become “the greatest industrial-scale censor ever in human history” if it removes too much content from its platforms.

Clegg, the former deputy prime minister of the UK, has been tasked with improving Meta’s reputation in the US and around the world.

Speaking at an event hosted by news outlet Semafor in Washington, Clegg said the company focuses most of its content moderation efforts on posts that can lead to real-world harm. His remarks came in response to a question about when the company chooses to remove abusive content aimed at women and the LGBTQ community.

“We work with experts, advocates in the LGBTQ community and elsewhere to set the policy right,” Clegg said. He said the company strives to remove the most extreme cases of hate speech rather than taking down offensive comments.

Apple, under the guise of privacy, is trying to kneecap competitors of Apple’s businesses

Meta has come under enormous criticism from activists who say the platform allows hate speech against marginalised groups to proliferate across its platform. A recent report from advocacy group GLAAD found that Facebook is failing to remove harassment aimed at LGBTQ people.

Clegg also defended the right of politicians to speak freely online. He reaffirmed the company’s stated timetable to make a decision about whether to restore former US President Donald Trump’s account by early 2023. Facebook banned Trump from its platforms following the 6 January riots on Capitol Hill.

Clegg said the company is conferring with experts and third parties to make its final decision on Trump. “You want to act proportionately and you want to be transparent about why you’re doing this,” Clegg said.

Meta’s reputation has taken a severe hit in Washington as lawmakers blast the company over its handling of election misinformation, user data, harmful content and children’s privacy. The Menlo Park, California-based company’s business has been struggling recently as well — Meta’s stock is down more than 50% this year. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned last month that the company is facing one of the “worst downturns that we’ve seen in recent history”.

Clegg pointed out that Meta’s market cap has “declined quite sharply in recent months”. Apple last year introduced new privacy features that reduce the ability of advertisers to target iPhone users, a change that Zuckerberg said would cost US$10-billion in revenue.

Apple, under the guise of privacy, “is trying to kneecap competitors of Apple’s businesses”, Clegg said on Thursday, referring to the feature that allows users to opt out of sharing their data with particular apps. The move by Apple has undermined the efficacy of Meta’s digital advertising, which is the core of its business. 

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