Mark Zuckerberg Discusses Ukraine, Video Games in Latest Town-Hall Q&A

By David Cohen Comment

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The conflict between Ukraine and Russia was featured prominently in the latest town-hall question-and-answer session with Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, held Thursday (his 31st birthday) at the social network’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

In response to a question about the removal of content posted by bloggers in Ukraine and the blocking of some of those bloggers, Zuckerberg explained:

There has been a bunch of content that has been posted that violates the rules that we have around hate speech. We don’t allow people to post content on Facebook that is overtly hateful toward another group, that has ethnic slurs, that tries to incite violence toward an ethnic group, or anything like that. Unfortunately there were a few posts that folks were posting that kind of tripped that rule. Other folks in our community reported that in, and we looked at those and made the determination that some of those posts included ethnic slurs against some Russian folks, and we took down those posts.

I looked into this personally because this question had 45,000 votes on it, so I wanted to make sure that I understood what I was talking about before we got up here, and I stand by that. I think we did the right thing, according to our policies, in taking down those posts, and I agree with the policies we have around not supporting hate speech. I think that is a good set of rules that we have on the system.

There are a couple of questions that folks were asking about were these posts by Ukrainians moderated by Russians. There’s the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. There’s this meme that was floating around about this policy and the content moderation was done out of a Russian office by Russians who were anti-Ukrainian. And that’s not true. First of all, we don’t actually have a Russian office, so anyone who thinks that this was done out of a Russian office, this should probably put that to rest. We also don’t have a Ukrainian office, and we don’t have offices in lots of other countries around the world, but maybe over time.

What we try to do when people write in and report content, we try to have folks who speak that language review it. We have a European headquarters in Dublin, where we have folks who speak a lot of different languages around the world look at the different content, and that’s what we did here.

We did make one mistake, which was when we reached out to some of the folks to tell them about the content that we had taken down, there was a bug in the system where we accidentally told folks that the content had been taken down because the posts contained nudity, instead of hate speech. That was a mistake. There was a bug in the software we are running. We fixed that. We have reached out and apologized to folks. It’s pretty clear if you look at the posts that they don’t contain nudity, so we understand why that was the source of some confusion. We’ll try not to make that mistake anymore.

Zuckerberg was also asked about his favorite video game, and whether it influenced his entry into programming, and he said:

My favorite game since I was a kid — and I still actually really like it, even though it’s a few generations later — is Civilization. It’s a really fun game, helping a civilization design an economy and develop science, and stuff like that, trying to keep everyone peaceful. I like that.

But what I really did a lot when I was a kid was I made a lot of games for myself. They were terrible, but this was how I got into programming. I got a computer when I was 10 or 11 and was playing games and wanted to make them better, so I just started kind of messing around and designing some stuff myself. The games were terrible by any objective measure of a game, but there’s some gratification that you get when it’s your game, and when you’re playing something that you designed.

I do think this dynamic around kids growing up and building games and playing games is an important one. I actually think this is how a lot of kids get into programming. I hear a lot that parents are concerned about their kids playing games, and there are valid concerns, and I think there’s an important debate to be had around that. But I do think that if you’re a parent and you don’t let your children use technology, but you also want them to grow up to be a computer programmer or be open to that if that’s what they want to do, I actually think giving people the opportunity to play around with different stuff is actually one of the best things you can to do kind of help people explore, give them a creative outlet and give them experience with things that they can kind of mess around with and build things themselves.

I definitely would not have gotten into programming if I hadn’t played games when I was a kid.

On a lighter note, Zuckerberg was asked about what will eventually replace his hoodies and grey T-shirts when he turns 80, and he answered with a laugh:

I have like 50 more years. I think I’ll figure that out by the time … hopefully I live to be 80.

Interestingly enough, this is not the first question in a town-hall Q&A about grey T-shirts. The philosophy is, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about fashion, as you can see. There’s a lot of psychological research that shows that when people make decisions, it takes some of your energy, even if it’s a small decision like what are you going to eat for breakfast, or what are you going to wear. I don’t want to spend my energy on that. I want to come in and spend my time and my energy working on things that are going to build better products and connect the world.

When I’m 80, who knows what kind of incredibly unfashionable thing I’ll have found? Maybe I’ll wear like a unitard, or a one-piece. A unitard may be bad. A onesie?

Readers: What did you think of Zuckerberg’s latest town-hall Q&A?

Watch the full video of the Townhall Q&A with Mark from Menlo Park, CA

Posted by Q&A with Mark on Thursday, May 14, 2015

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