By Kate Conger
Facebook, facing withering criticism from governments around the world, said Thursday it has been more aggressive in recent months about scrubbing its platform of hate speech.
In a report the company releases biannually, Facebook also said its automated detection software that eliminates illicit content is improving: It now automatically detects and removes more than half of the hate speech on its platform.
Regulators have expressed renewed interest in cracking down on Facebook after a mass shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, livestreamed the killings on his Facebook account. The video was viewed just 4,000 times before Facebook removed it, but it spread rapidly across the internet and was reposted millions of times.
The quick distribution of the video — and the apparent inability of Facebook and other tech companies to stop it from spreading — led to calls from regulators who said the company must do a better job of policing the content posted on its platform.
The video prompted government leaders from around the world to sign on to the “Christchurch Call,” an agreement to limit violent and extremist content online. Facebook said it would introduce stricter policies for livestreamed videos.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said in a call with reporters that he had recently discussed regulation with President Emmanuel Macron of France and that governments around the world should take a more proactive role in the regulation of online speech.
“If the rules for the internet were being written from scratch today, I don’t think people would want private companies to be making so many decisions about speech themselves,” Zuckerberg said.
Facebook said it removed 4 million hate speech posts during the first three months of the year, and detected 65% of it with artificial intelligence, up from just 24% the year before. Its automated systems for detecting violence also improved, Facebook said. It caught 98% of the violent content posted on its platform before users reported it.
Facebook is also beginning to use AI to detect and remove the sale of guns and drugs from its platform. Gun sales have thrived on Facebook for years, and the company has struggled to prevent them.