Facebook does not believe it is a primary cause of polarisation in the US

The social media giant rejected as "ludicrous" that social media should shoulder the blame for the deadly Jan 6 assault on the US Capitol. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A Facebook Inc executive said in an interview on Sunday (Oct 3) with CNN that the company does not believe that its social media service is a primary contributor to the political polarisation that has become widespread in the United States.

The company's vice-president of policy and global affairs, Nick Clegg, spoke ahead of an expected Sunday evening segment on CBS' 60 Minutes featuring a whistleblower who alleges the company moved too quickly to lift some election-related restrictions it had put in place around the November 2020 contest.

Clegg acknowledged that the company's platform can serve as a conduit for hate speech and disinformation.

"The way people exchange information ... now takes place online," he said in the interview. "So of course, we as one of the largest social media platforms have a responsibility to understand where we contribute to negative and extreme content or hate speech or misinformation and so on."

The whistleblower is expected to testify to a Tuesday Senate hearing about what one of the senators announcing the meeting called the social media company's toxic effects on young users.

Clegg rejected as "ludicrous" that social media should shoulder the blame for the deadly Jan 6 assault on the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump, fuelled by his false claims that his election defeat was the result of widespread fraud.

"The insurrection on that day lies squarely with the people who inflicted the violence and those who encouraged them, including President Trump," Clegg said.

"I think it gives people false confidence to assume that there must be a technological or a technical explanation for the issues of political polarisation in the United States ... It's too easy to say it's Facebook's fault."

US senators last week grilled Facebook about its plans to better protect young users on its apps, drawing on leaked internal research that showed the social media giant was aware of how its Instagram app harmed the mental health of teens.

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