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Mark Zuckerberg defends free speech amid battle against abuse

Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasized his company's commitment to prioritizing free speech while continuing to crack down on the spread of harmful content on the platform.

Speaking Oct. 17 at Georgetown University, Zuckerberg said Facebook's chief aim is to uphold "as wide of a definition" of freedom of expression as possible and to remove content only when it has the potential to cause "real danger" to users. Still, he acknowledged that the rise of terrorist propaganda, hate speech and misinformation has made that task more difficult.

"Some people will use their voice to incite violence, to undermine elections, to hurt others. We have a responsibility to address these risks," Zuckerberg said.

The executive outlined Facebook's various defenses against content abuse, including expanding advanced artificial intelligence capabilities to detect and delete fake accounts and adding more security reviewers, among other measures. Facebook's artificial intelligence systems remove "billions" of fake accounts every year, Zuckerberg said.

Addressing concerns about bias on the platform, Zuckerberg said it is not appropriate for a private company to "censor politicians or the news." The social media company has faced scrutiny from some U.S. legislators over whether the platform's algorithms improperly mute conservative voices, a charge that Facebook executives have vigorously denied.

Regarding threats of foreign meddling in U.S. elections, Zuckerberg said Facebook requires political ad buyers to provide a government-issued ID and verify their locations. All past political ads are stored in a searchable archive, he said.

Facebook is also facing regulatory scrutiny over its market power. In July, the company disclosed that it was being investigated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for antitrust concerns, shortly after it agreed to pay a $5 billion fine to settle FTC-documented privacy violations.

Additionally, the attorneys general of at least eight states and the District of Columbia have launched their own antitrust investigation into the company.

Zuckerberg on Oct. 17 acknowledged concerns about his company's market power, but noted, "I actually believe the much bigger story is how much these platforms have decentralized power by putting it directly into people's hands."