Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been answering questions lately about his feelings on free speech, a byproduct of questions about the company's selling of political advertising during the 2016 election.
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg took to his social media site to announce that he will be giving a speech on his views on free expression Thursday at 1:00 pm Eastern time from Washington, DC.
Facebook has been under pressure lately, especially from leading Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The senator from Massachusetts attacked the company for ad policy, which exempts politicians from third-party fact-checking, leading to questions about how much truthful information is on the platform.
“Facebook changed their ads policy to allow politicians to run ads with known lies—explicitly turning the platform into a disinformation-for-profit machine. This week, we decided to see just how far it goes,” the senator tweeted on Saturday before showing an ad with unverifiable information that was approved on the site.
Sen. Warren also called for the breakup of Facebook, Google, and Amazon in a post on Medium in March.
“Today’s big tech companies have too much power—too much power over our economy, our society and our democracy,” Sen. Warren wrote. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.” She added, “And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.”
Zuckerberg reportedly has also hosted informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners with conservative journalists and commentators in recent months to discuss issues like free speech and partnerships.
These discussions are being viewed by some on the left side of the aisle as Zuckerberg trying to appease the White House and President Trump, who threatened to sue Facebook and Google this past June and has threatened Justice Department action against the technology giants.
“To be clear, I have dinners with lots of people across the spectrum on lots of different issues all the time,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. “Meeting new people and hearing from a wide range of viewpoints is part of learning. If you haven't tried it, I suggest you do!”
Zuckerberg is also facing criticism for plans to deploy strong encryption on all the messaging services Facebook owns. On Friday, Oct. 4, Attorney General William Barr, joined by his Australian and British counterparts, sent a letter Zuckerberg urging him to abandon those plans.
“Security enhancements to the virtual world should not make us more vulnerable in the physical world,” the letter stated. “Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content, even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes.”
Facebook intends to put strong encryption to use on all of its messaging services in the near future, making Facebook Messenger and Instagram messages as private as possible in the next few years.
“Law enforcement, obviously, is not going to be psyched about that,” Zuckerberg said in July at a closed-door meeting at Facebook headquarters. “But we think it’s the right thing to protect people’s privacy more, so we’ll go defend that when the time is right.”