Facebook knows that there will always be people who spread negative and hateful speech on the internet, but the social media empire believes in the power of positive posting. At Facebook’s annual shareholder meeting today, Joel Kaplan, the company’s vice president of public policy, said that the answer to the terrorists, trolls, and sexists was to essentially flood the internet with nice things and positive speech.
“The most important thing to remember is that no matter how much speech we take down, there’s going to be someone, somewhere around the world, who wants to communicate a dangerous idea or a hateful idea,” Kaplan said. “So what we’re trying to work on is encouraging people around the world to use our platform to combat that type of speech.”
Kaplan was responding to a shareholder question about how Facebook can work “with the good guys” to keep negativity off of the platform. The question comes six days after a terrorist in France broadcasted the murder of a police officer and his companion on Facebook and Facebook Live. ISIS and other terrorist organizations often spread their propaganda and ideas though Facebook and other social media, in some cases even using it to recruit new members.
Facebook has community standards in place for people to report terrorist content and hate speech. Regulators can only do so much, though. Analyzing each organization and comment that is reported as hate speech takes a huge amount of resources. To make things even more difficult, not all posts that are flagged are actual hate speech, and actual hate speech might get through the censors.
For better or for worse, everyone knows that Facebook has the ability to shape public opinion. Just take a look at the hubbub the conservative media raised after Facebook reportedly suppressed conservative news stories. Peter Thiel, one of Facebook’s board members, has even made a name for himself in shaping the media and public opinion. In the case of terror, though, Facebook’s groupthink echo chamber could unite against a common enemy to overwhelm negative speech and groups.
“We’re working with government and civil societies and organizations to train them on the best practices to use our platform to spread messages of tolerance,” Kaplan said. “There is no place for terrorists or terrorists’ content on Facebook.” But rather than all-encompassing censorship, Kaplan suggests that “the answer to hateful and negative speech is more speech and positive speech.”