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Mark Zuckerberg: 'This is Going to Be a Never-Ending Battle'
After Facebook revealed that millions more users had their data improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica than initially thought – roughly 87 million instead of 50 million – CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced the press in a conference call on Wednesday, admitting that “it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough” to protect its users.
“We didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools to do harm as well,” Zuckerberg added. “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, hate speech, in addition to developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is, and that was a huge mistake. It was my mistake.”
Zuckerberg noted that Facebook now has 15,000 employees focused on security and content review and will have 20,000 by the end of the year.
Here are some of the highlights from Zuckerberg’s conference call. You can read the full transcript here.
On trying to protect Facebook’s users: “As long as there are people employed in Russia who have the job of trying to find ways to exploit these systems, this is going to be a never-ending battle. You never fully solve security — it’s an arms race. In retrospect we were behind, and we didn’t invest enough in it up front.”
On having dismissed the impact of fake news on the 2016 U.S. election: “I’ve said this already —but I think at this point that I clearly made a mistake by just dismissing fake news as “crazy”— as having an impact. People will analyze the actual impact of this for a long time to come, but what I think was clear at this point is that it was too flippant. I should have never referred to it as crazy.”
On why the number of people affected jumped from 50M to 87M: Zuckerberg notes that the original estimate of 50 million “came from other parties,” not from Facebook. The company, he said, wanted to figure out “the maximum possible number of friends lists that everyone could have had” through the personality quiz app created Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University researcher, that is at the center of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. “We wanted to take a broad view that is a conservative estimate. I am quite confident that given our analysis that it is not more than 87 million. It very well could be less, but we wanted to put out the maximum we felt that it could be as that analysis says.”
On whether he would be fine with data protection regulations in the U.S. similar to the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe: “We intend to make all the same controls and settings available everywhere, not just in Europe. Is it going to be exactly the same format? Probably not. We need to figure out what makes sense in different markets with the different laws and different places. But—let me repeat this—we’ll make all controls and settings the same everywhere, not just in Europe.”
On whether the board has discussed having him step down as chairman: “Not that I’m aware of.”
On whether he’s the best person to run Facebook going forward: “Yes. I think life is about learning from the mistakes and figuring out what you need to do to move forward. A lot of times people ask, ‘What are the mistakes you made early on, starting the company, or what would you try to do differently?’ The reality of a lot of this is that when you are building something like Facebook that is unprecedented in the world, there are going to be things that you mess up.”