Washington - Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg responded to accusations from President Donald Trump that the social network has always been "anti-Trump," defending the company he founded while acknowledging that he shouldn't have shaken off concerns about Facebook's influence.
Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday that Facebook and news media - including The Washington Post - had always been opposed to him. Zuckerberg said that the fact that Facebook fields criticism from Trump as well as liberals shows it's a "a platform for all ideas".
Many people raised concerns with Facebook about the impact that its platform played in spreading false information - concerns apparently bolstered by recent revelations that Russian operatives used Facebook advertisements to influence American voters. During and after the election, Zuckerberg downplayed those concerns - even when they came from President Barack Obama.
Now, Zuckerberg said, he wishes he'd responded differently. "After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea," Zuckerberg said, referencing a previous denial that Facebook could have influence voters. "Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive."
Yet despite those regrets, Zuckerberg said he still believes Facebook's greatest influence in the election was a positive one: raising awareness to get out the vote, connecting candidates and constituents and distributing legitimate ads that were "1000x more than any problematic ads we've found."
The debate over how much influence false information on Facebook's network had over the election continues. Facebook last week turned over thousands of politically themed advertisements to Congress. Zuckerberg had previously opposed turning over the records but said in a Facebook Live stream that he had changed his mind.
"Facebook's mission is all about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together. Those are deeply democratic values, and we're proud of them," he said. "I don't want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy. That's not what we stand for."
Democratic lawmakers are also calling for new legislation that would require transparency disclosures for policial ads placed on networks including Facebook, Twitter and Google.