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Image credit: Stephen Lam / Reuters

Mark Zuckerberg: We didn’t do enough to keep users safe

"It was a mistake. It was my mistake."
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Stephen Lam / Reuters

In light of the news that Facebook has rewritten its data policy, and that Cambridge Analytica may have had up to 87 million users' data, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted a call with the media to discuss the company's efforts to better protect people's information. Zuckerberg began by sending his condolences to everyone at YouTube after Tuesday's shooting at its headquarters in San Bruno, California, where multiple people were injured by a lone attacker. He then went on talk about the state of Facebook and said that the social network didn't do enough to prevent abuse of its platform, from the spread of fake news to not properly protecting user data.

Zuckerberg added that the main goal going forward is to get all of Facebook's systems under control, keep users safe and ensure that the site isn't being used to undermine democracies all over the globe. He pointed to the company's announcements from earlier today, in which it said that will be more strict about how it lets developers use its APIs. That, in theory, should limit the amount of personal data apps that use your Facebook login can view and access from you or your friends. "We need to take full responsibility for the outcome of how people use [our] tools," he said, noting that he wasn't prepared for the amount of influence Facebook has on the world today.

What's more, Zuckerberg said that 2018 in particular is a very important year for Facebook, what with major elections happening in countries like Brazil, India, Mexico, Pakistan and here in the US, as well. He said there are now 15,000 people working on manually reviewing abusive content, whose sole job is to prevent the spread of misinformation, polarization and other type of material intended to sway elections. Later this year, Zuckerberg said, the number of digital security employees at Facebook will be 20,000 -- which still seems small considering there are more than a billion users on the site.

Throughout the call, Zuckerberg seemed rather apologetic, a major shift from the days he was saying it was "crazy" to think Facebook had any real impact on the 2016 US presidential election: "We should've done more and we will going forward." Zuckerberg said that while people should be upset that Facebook hasn't done enough to keep its users safe, he hopes that his team is held accountable for learning from its mistakes and "building things that will make people's lives better."

Zuckerberg also emphasized that all the user data Facebook has at its disposal is because people chose to share it, though he said that the company isn't in the business of selling any of it. That said, he knows that Facebook needs to do a better job of making its policies and terms of service easier for users to understand, hence some of the changes that were announced today. "We're gonna use data to make [Facebook] better, but we're never gonna sell your information." he said. Zuckerberg added that, if Facebook can get to a place where people can understand, it will be in good shape.

The Facebook CEO ended his call by saying that it may take years for Facebook to fully solve all of its problems, but that doesn't mean that "it's not gonna get better every month" going forward. "My hope is that, by the end of this year, we'll have turned the corner on a lot of these issues and people see that things are getting a lot better," Zuckerberg said. "But these are big issues. This is a big shift for us to take a lot more responsibility. It's gonna take some time and we're committed to getting that right, and we're going to keep investing until we do."

And don't forget this was just a warm-up, because Zuckerberg will be testifying before Congress on April 11th.

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