Berlin: Its experience in Germany has taught Facebook to include migrants as a class of people that needed to be protected from hate speech online, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in Berlin on Friday.
Zuckerberg is on a two-day charm offensive in Germany, where the company he co-founded has faced criticism for months from politicians and regulators over its privacy policies and a slow response to anti-immigrant postings by neo-Nazi sympathizers.
Asked by IT student Jonas Umland at a public meeting how the world’s biggest social network was dealing with the problem, Zuckerberg said Facebook had changed its behavior after engaging more with the government and civil society in Germany.
“One of the things that is unique in Germany is that migrants are a protected class,” he said.
“There were lots of racial and underrepresented groups that we considered to be protected groups that we monitored for hate speech. But really our education, learning more about German culture and German law has led us to change our approach on that to now include hate speech against migrants as an important part of what we just now have no tolerance for.”
“This is always a work in progress. I’m not going to claim up here today that we’re perfect, we’re definitely not.”
Violence against refugees has been a growing concern in Germany which took in a record 1.1 million migrants in 2015.
In the latest incidents, a shelter for asylum seekers was set ablaze in Saxony while elsewhere in the eastern state about 100 people blocked an entrance to a refugee center.
To applause from the audience, Zuckerberg praised Germany for what he called its leading stance in welcoming the wave of migrants from war in Syria and elsewhere, saying that the United States could learn from its example.
The event crowned a visit where Zuckerberg has largely won over prominent Germans and the general public, despite tough talk about the social network’s record on data protection and hate speech.
Umland, who posed the question on hate speech, expressed a degree of satisfaction with Zuckerberg’s answer.
“I found it good that Mark said there was room for improvement. On the other hand, he didn’t mention any specific measures Facebook would take,” he told Reuters after the event.
“He came across very well, also at time spontaneous,” he said. “I found him very likeable.”