Sir Nick Clegg, head of global affairs and communications at Facebook, has defended the company against claims that it benefits from extreme and controversial content on its platforms.
The former Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister cited Facebook’s commitment to social responsibility after growing concerns in recent years around its policies on harmful and misleading material.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Clegg said: “There is nothing in the business model that lends itself to showing harmful and unpleasant and offensive or dangerous material to anybody.”
He was quizzed on the dangers of Instagram posts being linked to teen suicide and self-harming, admitting that this is “not something we’re completely on top of”. However, he refuted the suggestion that Facebook – which bought Instagram in 2012 – had any interest in allowing dangerous content to be published.
“Advertisers, upon whom the business relies, don’t like it at all. Of course, no sane human being wants to see young, particularly vulnerable or anguished individuals, exposed to such material.”
Clegg, who has been in his position at Facebook since October 2018, has had to defend the social media site several times in the press since his hiring. Its perceived inability to deal with the publication of offensive content has led to complaints that it permits this publication for financial gain.
“I see this over and over again, this assertion which is made without any further examination, that we have somehow a commercial incentive to expose people to unpleasant, hateful, polarising, extreme or even violent material. We have none at all,” he said.
Facebook has also come under fire for the publication of controversial political content. In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US Presidential Election, it was widely criticised for its role in the spread of fake news. It recently declined to follow rival social platform Twitter in banning political ads, arguing that it was not their responsibility to police the use of lies and misleading information in its external advertisements.
Clegg was also asked about the alleged hacking by Saudi Arabia of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’s mobile phone via WhatsApp – also owned by Facebook.
“We’re as sure as you can be that the technology of end-to-end encryption cannot be hacked into,” he said.