Facebook’s Nick Clegg ‘can’t say’ whether platform’s algorithm helped inspire US Capitol riot

Former politician blamed violence on the people that took part in it

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Sunday 10 October 2021 18:20 BST

Facebook’s Nick Clegg ‘can’t say’ whether platform’s algorithm helped inspire US Capitol riot

Facebook’s Nick Clegg refused to give a straight answer when pressed whether the social media giant’s algorithm helped inspire the 6 January Capitol riot.

Mr Clegg claimed on CNN that Facebook’s algorithm actually worked as “giant spam filters” and their removal would result in people seeing “more, not less, hate speech; more, not less, misinformation.”

The Facebook vice-president for global affairs, and former UK deputy prime minister, was asked directly by host Dana Bash if the company’s algorithms “amplify pro-insurrection voices ahead of 6 January?”

“I can’t give you a yes or no answer to the individual, personalised feeds that each person uses,” said Mr Clegg as he blamed the violence on the people that took part and the politicians who inspired it.

Ms Bash then asked Mr Clegg if it was problematic that “you’re not really sure if your platform allowed it to fester and amplify what ended up as this huge attack?”

Mr Clegg told her that “each person’s news feed is individual to them” and that he could not give her a “generic answer” on Facebook’s role in pushing election misinformation to those who took part in the riot.

“But if I may, if our algorithms are so nefarious as some people suggest, why is it that it’s precisely those systems that have succeeded to reduce hate speech, the prevalence of hate speech on our platforms to as little as 0.05 percent?” he asked.

“That means that for every 10,000 bits of content, you would only see 5 bits of hate speech. I wish we could limit it to zero.”

Earlier, Mr Clegg denied whistleblower Frances Haugen’s claims that the company put “their astronomical profits before people” and needs regulation.

“I don’t think a company that only places profit above everything else would do what we’ve done,”said Mr Clegg said, as he insisted that Facebook is “making sure that our platform is safe to use.”

Ms Haugen, a 37-year-old data scientist, appeared before Congress last week to accuse her former employer of pursuing profit over safety.

The former Facebook product manager told 60 Minutes that the company had disband its Civic Integrity team a month before the riot, where Trump supporters tried to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in