CNN anchor Dana Bash on Sunday repeatedly confronted Facebook executive Nick Clegg over the social-media giant’s role in spreading dangerous misinformation ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
Clegg, of course, ducked and dodged while attempting to shirk any responsibility on Facebook’s part.
In the wake of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s damning testimony before the Senate, in which she detailed how the platform knowingly stokes division for profit, Clegg has made the media rounds in an effort to push back and offer a counter-narrative.
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, the Facebook vice-president for global affairs was immediately pressed by Bash over Haugen’s allegations that the company is putting “their astronomical profits before people” and therefore needs to be heavily regulated.
“I don’t think a company that only places profit above everything else would do what we’ve done,” Clegg said, insisting that Facebook is “making sure that our platform is safe to use.”
Bash quickly turned her attention to the deadly Jan. 6 riot incited by former President Donald Trump in order to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Noting that Haugen is scheduled to testify before the Jan. 6 congressional committee, the CNN host flatly asked Clegg if Facebook’s algorithms did “amplify or spread pro-insurrection voices ahead” of the violence.
“Let me be clear because there’s been a lot of, I think, misleading discussion about what the algorithms do,” Clegg reacted, adding: “If you remove the algorithms—which, I think, Frances Haugen, is one of her central recommendations—the first thing that would happen is people would see more, not less, hate speech; more, not less, misinformation.”
As Clegg claimed the platform’s algorithms actually served as “giant spam filters,” the State of the Union moderator interjected to get a more direct answer to her query.
“But my question is about Jan. 6. Did the algorithms that are in place amplify pro-insurrection voices ahead of Jan. 6?” Bash pressed.
“I can't give you a yes or no answer to the individual, personalized feeds that each person uses,” Clegg dodged before declaring that the responsibility for the violence that day fell on the individuals involved.
“I understand that, but is it a problem that you’re not really sure if your platform allowed it to fester and amplify what ended up as this huge attack?” Bash shot back.
Clegg once again ducked the question, stating that “each person’s news feed is individual to them” and, therefore, he cannot give “a generic answer” on the role the platform played in feeding election misinformation to Capitol rioters. He then concluded by patting Facebook on the back.
“But if I may, if our algorithms are so nefarious as some people suggest, why is it that it’s precisely those systems that have succeeded to reduce hate speech, the prevalence of hate speech on our platforms to as little as 0.05 percent?” Clegg rhetorically asked. “That means that for every 10,000 bits of content, you would only see 5 bits of hate speech. I wish we could limit it to zero.”