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Anti-Defamation League Head Blasts Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Over Online Extremism

July 16, 2019, 12:25 AM UTC

The head of a leading anti-hate group says Facebook’s CEO failed a critical test in removing toxic speech from its service.

Mark Zuckerberg’s recent justification for not removing a doctored video depicting the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi amounted to an ethical failure, said Jonathan Greenblat, who leads the Anti-Defamation League.

“He refused to offer the kind of answer responsible people would expect … It’s ugly and it’s got to change,” Greenblatt said at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. on Monday.

Zuckerberg defended the decision against removing the video, which falsely depicted Pelosi slurring her speech, by saying Facebook shouldn’t censor everything that is false. However, he added that the company should have done more to stop the video going viral.

Joining a growing list of critics, Greenblatt also blasted Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, for failing to confront a rising tide of white supremacy, which he described as a “scourge” sustained by social media.

While extremism and hate are age-old problems, Greenblatt says social media has given rise to new and dangerous strains by allowing disturbed individuals to find each other in online communities like 4Chan. He added that people engage in behavior on these platforms that would never be tolerated in most other places online.

“If you go to Shake Shack and yell “Die dirty Jew,” they will throw you out,” Greenblatt said, asking why tech platforms like Facebook don’t operate their businesses in the same fashion. “It shelters the sociopaths and encourages the kind of intolerance we’d never tolerate in the real world.”

Greenblatt also offered a series of practical suggestions for tech companies to combat the spread of toxic behavior. Notably, he suggested that the firms reset their algorithms to screen for hate, and “slow it down” so that what people upload doesn’t always appear instantly. Greenblatt also called for eliminating or at least labeling social media bots, and also demanded that companies stop making a profit from hate speech through their advertising.

“It’s long overdue for Facebook, Google, and Twitter to take people spewing racism, anti-Semitism and hate and throw them out,” he concluded.

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