On October 1, The Verge published the full transcript of Mark Zuckerberg’s two internal meetings which were held in July, wherein he answered employees’ questions on Facebook’s plan to counter the growth of TikTok, on Libra, on why Zuckerberg can’t attend every hearing in the world.
On TikTok popularity and Facebook’s plan of attack: Zuckerberg said that TikTok has essentially married short-form, immersive video with browse, and equates it with Instagram’s Explore Tab, which is about feed posts and highlighting different feed posts. Facebook also plans to launch Lasso, its standalone video app, in markets where TikTok isn’t aready big. So Lasso isn’t coming to India anytime soon!
“I think that it’s not only one of the more interesting new phenomena and products that are growing. But in terms of the geopolitical implications of what they’re doing, I think it is quite interesting. I think we have time to learn and understand and get ahead of the trend. It is growing, but they’re spending a huge amount of money promoting it. What we’ve found is that their retention is actually not that strong after they stop advertising. So the space is still fairly nascent, and there’s time for us to kind of figure out what we want to do here.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Zuckerberg acknowledged that TikTok is the only non-American company to dominate the global internet landscape, which has been a bunch of American tech companies.
“It’s starting to do well in the US, especially with young folks. It’s growing really quickly in India. I think it’s past Instagram now in India in terms of scale. So yeah, it’s a very interesting phenomenon.” – Mark Zuckerberg
“Big push” for encryption on messaging apps: Zuckerberg revealed two things regarding encryption: a greater push towards encryption across Facebook’s messaging apps, and a more consultative approach to the process. He acknowledged that “law enforcement, obviously, is not going to be psyched about that”, but added, “we think it’s the right thing to protect people’s privacy more, so we’ll go defend that when the time is right.”
Zuckerberg had indicated this at F8 2019, where he had declared that “the future is private”, and this future is based on six principles, one of which is encryption. This could simply mean that Facebook wants to make Messenger end-to-end encrypted. At F8, he had said that he wants to achieve the private future the way it has built WhatsApp – starting with a secure private messaging service with end-to-end encryption, and build more ways to interact privately within that.
It’s worth noting that these meetings were held in July 2019, when debate around law enforcement agencies’ access to originator information was intensifying in the Madras High Court, and WhatsApp’s general counsel, Brian Hennessey attended one of the hearings.
On Libra launch and other payments services: Zuckerberg said Facebook wants to make is as easy for people to send money as a photo or other content, stating that “but we want to work with traditional currencies”.
“So we have a test going in India. We’re working in Mexico and a bunch of other countries to have this rolled out broadly. The hope is to get that rolled out in a lot of places with existing currencies before the end of this year.” – Mark Zuckerberg
The intention behind Libra is to try to stand up a new kind of digital money, that can work globally, and is stable, Zuckerberg said. “We’ve led that the thinking and development on it so far, but the idea is to do this as an independent association, which is what we announced with about 27 other companies. By the time it launches, we expect we’ll have 100 or more companies as part of it.”
Zuckerberg said that Facebook is going to take a more consultative approach, when it comes to socially important such as Libra, acknowledging that finance is heavily regulated, and important issues such as terrorist financing and money laundering have to be dealt with.
On attending hearings around the world:
“So I mean, the reality on the hearings thing is, I’m not going to go to every single hearing around the world. A lot of different people want to do that. When the issues came up last year around Cambridge Analytica, I did hearings in the US. I did hearings in the EU. It just doesn’t really make sense for me to go to hearings in every single country that wants to have me show up and, frankly, doesn’t have jurisdiction to demand that.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Hon’ble IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Cambridge Analytica in 2018 (L) —-> Leaked audio of Hon’ble Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2019 (R). #GandhiAt150 pic.twitter.com/RZdQ44ifrG
— Anuj Srivas (@AnujSrivas) October 2, 2019
On the calls for breaking up Facebook: Zuckerberg said that if Elizabeth Warren gets elected president, he bets that “we will have a legal challenge” and “I would bet that we will win the legal challenge”. That “still sucks” for Facebook because it wouldn’t want to have a major lawsuit against its own government, he said. Even though he would prefer that Facebook work with their government, “But look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”
Breaking up big tech won’t reduce election interference, but makes it “more likely because companies can’t coordinate and work together” and also makes hate speech more likely.
“It’s why Twitter can’t do as good of a job as we can. I mean, they face, qualitatively, the same types of issues. But they can’t put in the investment. But they can’t put in the investment. Our investment on safety is bigger than the whole revenue of their company.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Although Zuckerberg said there are real issues, he thinks anti-trust remedies are not going to solve them. At the same time, if Facebook doesn’t help address those issues and help put together a regulatory framework, “people are just going to keep on getting angrier and angrier”.
On reports about mental and emotional abuse experienced by content moderation contract workers: Zuckerberg said that Facebook works with outside firms to scale up. “Facebook wants to make sure that the moderators are very much part of the family and are treated dwell, and have the same kind of support the employees would have,” he added.