May 28, 2020
Mark Zuckerberg Interview Transcript on Social Media Fact Checking Politics & Remote Work
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did an interview with CNBC in which he talked about social media fact checking politics amid the Donald Trump & Twitter controversy, and remote work during the coronavirus era. Read the full transcript here.
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Andrew Ross Sorkin: (00:00)
Mark, you’ve decided effectively to move the workplace in a very new way, which is that you were saying that you imagine 50% of your people are going to be working from home or remotely over the next five to ten years, and that’s a huge decision. So let’s just start with, how did you make that decision, and what are you expecting it’s going to look like?
Mark Zuckerberg: (00:22)
Well, I think it’s going to be a very measured process for getting there. So I do predict that over the next five to ten years, we’ll be able to get as much as 50% of the company working remotely. That’s not a goal. It’s not like I feel like it’s critical that we get to half, but it’s a prediction about how much I think we will get based on the talent pools that we’ll be able to have access to; we’re recruiting outside of just the big cities, and what percent of our employees from studies and surveys that we’ve done have shown an interest in working remotely if given that option.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (01:07)
And so, let’s just talk about the cultural piece of this, because you’re going to be onboarding people, you’re going to have people remote all over the country. Do you think it’s going to advantage or disadvantage people? Do you think it’s going to attract certain types of people who want to be in the office? There’s also not just wanting to be in the office, but there’s proximity to power. So if you have a boss, oftentimes you want to try to be near that boss. There’s the old idea of face time. Does that go away under this?
Mark Zuckerberg: (01:34)
Yeah, I think that there are certainly some advantages of remote work and then there are issues that we have to deal with. So maybe I’ll just go through some of the advantages first and then we can get into the challenges at length as well.
Mark Zuckerberg: (01:48)
The biggest advantages, I think, are access to large pools of talent, who don’t live around the big cities and aren’t willing to move there. And there are a lot of people in the U.S. and in Canada and ultimately around the world who I think we and other companies that go in this direction will be able to access. We also see on the retention side, one of the top reasons when people leave the company, that they tell us that they are leaving, is because they want to move to a place; maybe be with their family, but we don’t have an office there. So we’ll now be able to keep more of those folks in the loop, which will be in some ways, even more valuable than recruiting new people, because those people are already ramped up on our culture.
Mark Zuckerberg: (02:30)
This overall will, I think, helps spread economic opportunity more broadly across the country. I think there’s a big challenge right now, which is that a lot of opportunities are only available in cities, in these metropolitan areas, which means that people kind of need to choose between the lifestyle that they want, and sometimes, would need to move to a city and leave that, in order to have good economic opportunities. But it’s not clear why that should have to be the case. And I think something like remote work can help on that.
Mark Zuckerberg: (02:59)
There’s environmental positive aspects. People are going to spend a lot less time commuting and more time just teleporting in, either over video chat or eventually things like virtual reality. And for us, I mean, our company, so much of what we do is just building products that help people feel connected and present together no matter where they are. So whether that’s the main kind of feed products that we offer or things like video chat workplace for enterprises, our hardware with portal, or the longer term bets are on virtual and augmented reality that are really about helping you feel present.
Mark Zuckerberg: (03:34)
I just kind of feel like moving in a more remote direction and requiring our employees to rely on these tools more, will help advance some of that future technology development as well. So that’s a lot of the stuff on the good side.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (03:48)
Do you imagine senior people in those roles being remote?
Mark Zuckerberg: (03:52)
Yeah, I think we will certainly get there. Actually, one of the big things that we basically decided is we’re rolling this out in a measured way, is we’re going to have more experienced people be able to do this first. Because we concluded that if you’re a new grad out of college or having had a lot of experience working at a company, it’s actually more important that you’re at the office in person for training in order to get ramped up on how a company works and how to work with colleagues in that environment, before putting you in the environment where you’d potentially be more on your own, working remotely.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (04:29)
Mark Zuckerberg: (04:30)
There are a few things like that. In terms of the most senior folks, there’s certainly demand on our management team. And I do think some of the most senior people will shift to work remotely more of the time, but of course in these really senior roles, they’re somewhat unique. I mean, for me, for example, I couldn’t just choose to work from home all the time, if I wanted. I have to go in and meet with people, whether they’re in their partners or governments or different folks. And so I would anticipate that I’m going to spend more of my time working remotely than I did before. But I don’t think that it would be feasible for someone like me or in a role like me to just work remotely all the time. I don’t think that’s-
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (05:14)
But what does it do to your executive team Mark, in terms of, I imagine on days that you’re in the office, they’re going to want to be in the office. And on days that you’re not in the office, maybe they’ll take the day from home.
Mark Zuckerberg: (05:24)
Yeah. And to some degree, we already have done this. We have this policy called No Meeting Wednesdays, which quickly evolved into Work From Home Wednesday, because a lot of people felt, “Hey, if I don’t have to come in and I don’t have meetings, then I’m going to be more efficient if I don’t have to commute into the office that day, and I could just get through whatever code I’m writing or document I’m writing from home.”
Mark Zuckerberg: (05:46)
So we already have that. And that’s standardizing on people taking time at certain points, has actually been a pretty good tactic. In general, I think one of the big challenges with remote work that we’re all going to have to work through, is the feeling of kind of building social bonds, building culture and creativity together. People are going to need to feel like they have the same opportunities to do their best work remotely, in addition to being in the office. And they’re going to need to feel like it’s not going to disadvantage their career to work remotely.
Mark Zuckerberg: (06:18)
And those are things that we’re going to have to be very intentional about how we engineer these processes, how meetings work, what opportunities people have, in order to make sure that ambitious people who really care about their career know that it’s still a good decision to work remotely, and they’re still going to be able to get good stuff done.
Mark Zuckerberg: (06:35)
So I think that there are a lot of open questions on exactly how to do this, but this is part of the reason why we’re taking a measured approach and rolling this out over the coming years, starting with people who are experienced, who are high performing at the company, in order to set that tone, that the good kind of key leaders and folks that a lot of people want to be like are going to be moving to be remote. I think that that’ll set the tone and then we’ll kind of work from there in order to figure out how to open this up to more people.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (07:05)
Mark, you were early on COVID and on moving people out of offices. You were also early on making the decision not to do large gatherings all the way through June of 2021, and you made that decision last month. Tell us how you made that decision. And I’m also curious, now as the United States is reopening, America’s reopening, so to speak, whether you would think about changing that decision.
Mark Zuckerberg: (07:29)
Yeah. So outside of Facebook, I spend a meaningful amount of time on our family philanthropy, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, where a big part of what we do is health work, fighting diseases. And through that work, I’ve gotten a chance to get to know pretty well, a number of leading experts in these fields. I mean, we helped establish this organization, The Biohub, it’s a really great research facility in the Bay area. Which by the way, one of the co-presidents is one of the leading infectious disease researchers who identified, or is on the team who identified the first SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. So he was very helpful and instrumental in me understanding what might happen. And by the way, he’s done great work, turning the Biohub into a testing facility for the Bay area. While testing was still limited, the Biohub was, it was enabling thousands of tests a day.
Mark Zuckerberg: (08:28)
And also, we work closely with a public health expert, named Tom Frieden, who was the director of the CDC for a while. So those two really helped me understand early on, when we were getting past the point that this was just as a disease that was in China and a number of Asian countries, and when it became inevitable that it was to spread broadly and what that was going to look like. It enabled me to take some of the policy decisions early on to anticipate that and make sure that our workforce could be safe and start building tools to serve our broader community. Like the COVID Information Center that we put at the top of everyone’s newsfeed for weeks, and directed more than 2 billion people to go see it, so they can get authoritative information on the disease and what’s going on.
Mark Zuckerberg: (09:21)
In terms of opening up at this point, because … We’re in a lucky position where, because a lot of what we do is software development and you really can do that mostly from home. I think opening up is going to be somewhat of a contended resource. There are a lot of small businesses and other folks who really depend on being able to get out into public and out more openly in order for their businesses to survive. But part of keeping them safe means folks who can stay at home, I think being a little more conservatively about when they return.
Mark Zuckerberg: (09:53)
So we’ve made the decision that we’re going to be on the slow end of having people come back to work. We’ve already started opening up some of the offices for certain roles that really can only be done there, but we’ll open up a little more slowly over time than might otherwise be possible, just in order to make sure that the folks who really need to be able to stay open for their livelihoods, kind of have right of way on that, if that makes sense.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (10:18)
All right, want to switch topics for just a couple of seconds or want to try a couple other questions on you for a second. Twitter, as you know, just started fact-checking President Trump in the past 24 hours, just yesterday. What did you think of that?
Mark Zuckerberg: (10:34)
Well, I mean, we’re different companies, but I think we’ve been pretty clear on what I think the right approach is. Which is, but I don’t think that Facebook or internet platforms in general, should be arbiters of truth. I think that’s a kind of a dangerous line to get down to, in terms of deciding what is true and what isn’t. And I think political speech is one of the most sensitive parts in a democracy, and people should be able to see what politicians say. And there’s a ton of scrutiny already. Political speech is the most scrutinized speech already by a lot of the media and I think that, that will continue.
Mark Zuckerberg: (11:17)
Now, of course, we have lines. So, just because we don’t want to be determining what is true and false, it doesn’t mean that politicians or anyone else can just say whatever they want. And our policies are grounded in trying to give people as much voice as possible while saying, if you’re going to harm people in specific ways, or if you’re going to do something that’s going to cause violence, or if you’re saying that something is a cure to a disease that has been proven to be a cure, but it’s not. And that could lead people to either not seek another treatment or do something that could be harmful, we’ll take that down no matter who says that.
Mark Zuckerberg: (11:56)
We had a case recently, where the Brazilian president was saying that that hydroxy chloroquine was proven by scientists to be safe. And we had to make the difficult decision of taking that down, even though we want to provide as much voice as possible. So there are lines and we will enforce them. But I think in general, you want to give as wide of a voice as possible and I think you want to have a special deference to political speech.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (12:29)
But as we get closer to the election and commentary around the election, and questions even about whether we’re going to have a constitutional crisis, I mean, that has already come up. Could you see yourself fact-checking certain things that are coming either from the White House or other politicians in the United States?
Mark Zuckerberg: (12:47)
So, I mean, let me be clear about what we do. For misinformation more broadly, we have a program to make sure that the things that are spreading virally on Facebook aren’t complete made up hoaxes. And so if you look at whatever the top 1000 or 10,000 links are that are being shared in a given day, some of the stuff that people share on the internet is real junk, and it’s completely made up and you don’t want that stuff to be the stuff that’s going the most viral. So we have a program where we work with independent fact checkers on that, to make sure that things that are completely hoaxes can be limited in their spread.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (13:29)
Mark Zuckerberg: (13:30)
But the point of that program isn’t to try to parse words on, is something slightly true or false, it’s really to catch the worst of the worst stuff. In terms of political speech, again, I think you want to give broad deference to the political process and political speech. But there are lines. We have very clear policies on voter suppression, for example. But if you mislead people on when they can vote or how they can vote, in a way that is going to have an effect where, where people might think that they’re voting and exercising their right to vote, but are actually aren’t because they show up on the wrong day, or think that they’re voting, but are doing something that isn’t actually voting, we’re not going to allow that. We’ll take that down no matter who says that. And those are very clear policies.
Mark Zuckerberg: (14:25)
But in general, we’ve tried to distinguish ourselves as probably being one of the tech companies that is the most protective of giving people a voice and free expression overall. There are clear lines that map to specific harms and damage that that can be done where we take down the content. But overall, including compared to some of the other companies, we try to be more on the side of giving people a voice and free expression.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (14:55)
Right. What do you make of the idea that throughout this crisis, some of the largest companies and largest tech companies, actually have been the biggest beneficiaries? That ultimately more, this has accelerated the success of the big tech companies and has actually made it harder for the smaller players.
Mark Zuckerberg: (15:16)
I mean, I think that over the long term, those two things are inextricably linked. I mean, our business, for example, we’re really in the business of serving small businesses. The vast majority of our advertisers are small businesses and that makes up the biggest part of our revenue. More than 100 million small businesses around the world use our services, the vast majority of which for free, but some of them are paying and that’s basically our business.
Mark Zuckerberg: (15:43)
So yeah, we’re certainly seeing a dynamic where a lot of small businesses are under a lot of pressure, especially as there are a lot of people across the country being told to stay home. Physical storefronts are having a hard time staying open. And even when they are open, a lot of people are wary about going out. So what we’re seeing is that a lot of small businesses are having to shut down and may not survive this period. And that I think will ripple through and ultimately affect everyone and no one is going to be immune from that. But one of the things that we are seeing, is that a strategy that a lot of small businesses are using to survive and stay afloat, is to shift more to the internet, where your online storefront will stay open, even when your physical store can’t be.
Mark Zuckerberg: (16:30)
And to that end, we’ve tried doing a number of things. We had this big launch, a couple of weeks ago of a new product called Facebook Shops. And what it basically is, it gives small businesses the ability to quickly set up a shop that you can attach to your Facebook and your Instagram profile. And you do it once, and now people who interact with your business on social media can buy things directly from you and discover your products and complete the transactions. And I think something like that is going to hopefully help more small businesses stay afloat during this period. It’s obviously not going to mitigate all the harm and it’s not going to work for everyone, but I hope it can have some impact.
Mark Zuckerberg: (17:09)
But at the end of the day, I think we are all in this together. I think that there’s no future where somehow all the small businesses suffer, but then people still have enough disposable income to go spend money on things and then large businesses are fine. I just think that that’s not going to be how this plays out.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (17:28)
I know we got to run. Have you seen anything on the platform already as America reopens, that’s indicative of whether more people are either spending time advertising or people are buying things through small businesses?
Mark Zuckerberg: (17:41)
I need to think about that a bit more. I mean, certainly we’re seeing increased activity, including of people interacting with small businesses. We’re seeing small businesses start to use Facebook Shops and other things more. But I think it’s not just one clear story where every sector is doing the same. I think what we’re generally seeing is some areas around e-commerce shopping online, things like that are recovering and growing faster. Things like entertainment, gaming, I think that people do while they’re at home, are recovering faster. But then certain things like travel, I just think are going to have an issue for a very long time to come.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (18:22)
Okay, Mark. I know we got to go. Before I go, coolest non Facebook app or program that you’ve started using during quarantine. Anything that you found to be really clever that you’re using?
Mark Zuckerberg: (18:36)
Well, I have to say I was doing this a bit before, but I’ve spent a lot more time playing with games in virtual reality with friends during this period. And I’ve always been a fan of virtual reality and that’s of course why we bought Oculus and have been focused on building that. But now during this period where I can’t physically be with a lot of my friends, having the ability to do something where it feels like we’re physically in a space together.
Mark Zuckerberg: (19:05)
Then I started playing this game, Echo Arena. It’s a combination of Frisbee in three dimensions in zero gravity. It’s kind of like, I don’t know if you remember the book, Ender’s Game, where they have this game and during the other students play during the simulation. It’s kind of like that in virtual reality, and I get teams of my friends and family together and we’re playing in VR. It’s incredibly fun, and I think it will be a glimpse of the future, where I think there will be more experiences like this, that I think a lot of people are going to enjoy.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (19:42)
Okay. I will see you on Oculus, Mark. Thank you.