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Zuckerberg defends big tech, says Facebook should remain free

“Now you’ve built a bunch of big companies in the process, but I think what has largely happened is that individuals today have more voice," Zuckerberg said.
Facebook CEO photo illustration on portable devices
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on an iPhone.Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that Facebook is committed to remaining a free service and defended the company’s place as one of a handful of dominant tech companies.

Zuckerberg, who spoke with Harvard University law professor Jonathan Zittrain for the first in a series of public discussions he committed to in 2019, said that Facebook had helped decentralize society.

“A reason why I think people of my generation got into technology is because we believe that technology gives individuals power and isn’t massively centralizing,” Zuckerberg said. “Now you’ve built a bunch of big companies in the process, but I think what has largely happened is that individuals today have more voice, more ability to affiliate with who they want, and stay connected with people, ability to form communities in ways that they couldn’t before.”

He also said that Facebook should remain free of charge.

“We want to give everyone a voice. We want everyone to be able to connect with who they care about,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg’s appearance comes as Facebook faces continued scrutiny from politicians and activists over its data privacy practices and its moderation practices. On Sunday night, a U.K. committee released a report that said “companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’” and concluded that the government must find new ways to regulate social media companies.

In the video, Zuckerberg touched on a wide variety of issues including user complaints, Facebook’s role in regulating the content that is posted on the social network, and the ups and downs of various technologies including encryption and blockchain.

Zuckerberg also said that the company at one point considered banning political ads as it worked on how to counter election interference.

“Once we started to put together a really big effort on preventing election interference one of the initial ideas that came up is why don't we just ban all ads that relate to anything that is political.” Zuckerberg said in the post.

Zuckerberg's conversations are part of his annual personal challenge, which he revealed earlier in the year. In previous years, his challenges have included visiting every state, reading more books, and writing more thank-you notes.

“My challenge for 2019 is to host a series of public discussions about the future of technology in society -- the opportunities, the challenges, the hopes, and the anxieties.” Zuckerberg announced in January. “Every few weeks I'll talk with leaders, experts, and people in our community from different fields and I'll try different formats to keep it interesting.”

In his conversation with Harvard’s Zittrain, Zuckerberg stressed that he does not want Facebook to take on the role of deciding the veracity of content posted by its users. Facebook is currently in the process of setting up an independent council to review controversial content.

“I believe very strongly that people do not want Facebook to be (and we should not be) the arbiters of truth in deciding what is correct for everyone in society. People generally think we have too much power in deciding what content is good and I tend to also be concerned about that.” Zuckerberg said.