Mark Zuckerberg has said Facebook cannot be expected to manage the crisis around election misinformation campaigns on its own.
The Facebook CEO, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Wednesday, said that while the company was focused on questions of election security and interference before the 2020 US presidential election, “those are really hard questions to answer”.
“I don’t think as a society we want private companies to be the final word on making these decisions,” he added.
Facebook is scrambling to address concerns over misinformation spreading on the platform before voters head to the polls. It is facing a potential $5bn (£4bn) fine from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which opened an investigation in response to the Cambridge Analytica revelations first reported by the Guardian and Observer.
Zuckerberg discussed some of the many scandals facing Facebook during an event with the Harvard law professor and Facebook consultant Cass Sunstein.
Hours before Zuckerberg spoke at the forum, the White House ramped up its criticism of the company for alleged bias against Republicans and called for “robust conversations” about censorship on online platforms at a summit on 11 July.
Zuckerberg said he encouraged governments to enact regulations to protect privacy and prevent foreign influences in elections, citing his support for the Senate’s Honest Ads Act introduced by the senators Amy Klobuchar and John McCain in 2017.
The measure, which would ban foreign nationals from purchasing broadcast, cable, or digital ads that promote specific political candidates, is a “good floor for what should be passed”, he said.
“We would be better off if we had a robust democratic process setting rules on how we want to arbitrate the processes to protect values that we hold dear, but in the absence of regulation we are going to do the best we can to build up sophisticated systems to address these issues,” he said.
In September 2018, Facebook introduced new measures meant to curb foreign influence in elections, including identifying and removing fake accounts and preventing accounts from outside the United States from purchasing advertisements on the platform.
Despite repeatedly stating his support for legislating consumer and election security on Facebook, Zuckerberg fired back at calls from politicians like Elizabeth Warren to break up the company, saying it was investing billions of dollars into “systems that are more sophisticated than what governments have” to address privacy and other social issues.
“It is not the case that if you broke up Facebook into a bunch of little pieces you wouldn’t have those issues – you would still have them but you would be less equipped to deal with them,” he said.
Facebook is expected to grapple with increasing government scrutiny as elections approach, and it has already facing backlash from international regulators and US Congress members over its Libra cryptocurrency, expected to launch in 2020.