Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has released a 6,000 word letter on his hope that the social network can fix a range of socio-economic issues – from fake news and scanning content for terrorist threats using AI to creating supportive communities.
In the note, Zuckerberg outlined his goals beyond social networking, which are likely to increase the whispers around his future political aspirations.
“Our greatest opportunities are now global — like spreading prosperity and freedom, promoting peace and understanding, lifting people out of poverty, and accelerating science,” he said.
“Our greatest challenges also need global responses — like ending terrorism, fighting climate change, and preventing pandemics. Progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.”
The statement also targets the fake news and filter bubbles which many blamed for influencing Brexit and election results.
“This has been painful for me because I often agree with those criticising us that we’re making mistakes,” he said, referencing Facebook’s decision to remove content including “newsworthy” videos related to Black Lives Matter and police violence, and the historical ‘Terror of War’ photo from Vietnam.
He discussed how he hoped to use AI to accomplish goals around safety and monitor bad user behaviour, saying the technology could help provide a “better approach” and describing researching systems which could look at photos and videos to flag content for a team to review. He mentioned bullying, harassment and even a suicide that was live-streamed, which he thinks could be avoided by the introduction of AI.
“This is still very early in development, but we have started to have it look at some content, and it already generates about one-third of all reports to the team that reviews content for our community,” he added.
He went on to discuss the backlash against globalisation which, he added, has become controversial.
“Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community. When we began, this idea was not controversial,” he commented.
“Every year, the world got more connected and this was seen as a positive trend. Yet now, across the world there are people left behind by globalisation, and movements for withdrawing from global connection. There are questions about whether we can make a global community that works for everyone, and whether the path ahead is to connect more or reverse course.”
Five key areas of focus included building stronger communities both online and offline, creating better tools for safety and emergency response, surfacing more diverse perspectives around news, quashing what he referred to as “sensationalism”, and creating a more politically engaged society and better guidelines for what’s appropriate and inappropriate.
“Right now, we’re starting to explore ways to use AI to tell the difference between news stories about terrorism and actual terrorist propaganda so we can quickly remove anyone trying to use our services to recruit for a terrorist organization,” he wrote.
“This is technically difficult as it requires building AI that can read and understand news, but we need to work on this to help fight terrorism worldwide.”
Fake news battle
Zuckerberg discussed Facebook’s battle with “fake news” and “filter bubbles” – something addressed by a new M&M Global consumer survey – saying the platform provided more diverse viewpoints than traditional media ever has.
“Research shows that some of the most obvious ideas, like showing people an article from the opposite perspective, actually deepen polarisation by framing other perspectives as foreign,” he wrote. “A more effective approach is to show a range of perspectives, let people see where their views are on a spectrum and come to a conclusion on what they think is right.
“The idea is to give everyone in the community options for how they would like to set the content policy for themselves. Where is your line on nudity? On violence? On graphic content? On profanity? What you decide will be your personal settings.”
Zuckerberg said the platform will periodically ask users these questions to increase participation. “For those who don’t make a decision, the default will be whatever the majority of people in your region selected, like a referendum. Of course, you will always be free to update your personal settings anytime,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Facebook agreed to an audit by the Media Rating Council (MRC), the latest in a series of steps the social network has taken to boost confidence among advertisers following revelations it over-stated campaign performance.