Mark Zuckerberg said policing bullying is hard when the content is ‘not clearly illegal’ – in 44 states, cyberbullying can bring criminal sanctions

mark zuckerberg facebook
Mark Zuckerberg at the 56th Munich Security Conference in February 2020.

  • US Rep. Fred Upton asked Mark Zuckerberg what Facebook was doing to stop bullying.
  • Zuckerberg said the site has trouble moderating that content it because it’s “not clearly illegal.”
  • 48 states have laws against online harassment and bullying.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it has been difficult for his social media network to police cyberbullying content, after a representative called him out for a lack of moderation on Facebook during a misinformation hearing on Thursday.

US Representative (R) Fred Upton made a reference to the Boulder Shooting on Monday, saying there was a lot of speculation the shooter had been bullied online. He asked Zuckerberg what Facebook was doing to stop bullying on its platform.

“It’s horrible and we need to fight it and we have policies that are against it, but it also is often the case that bullying content is not clearly illegal,” Zuckerberg said during the hearing.

48 states have laws against online harassment, which includes cyberbullying, according to data from a cyberbullying research site. 44 of the states also include criminal sanctions against online bullying and harassment, the research shows.

Read more: Facebook says it removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts in the months surrounding the 2020 election

During the hearing, Zuckerberg presented several changes that could be made to internet legislation in the US, including increased transparency for platforms like Facebook, standards for addressing illegal content like cyberbullying on social media, as well as laws protecting smaller social media platforms from lawsuits and heavy regulations.

“When I was starting Facebook, if we had been hit with a lot of lawsuits around content, it might have been prohibitive for me getting started,” Zuckerberg said.

The purpose of Thursday’s hearing was to address the role of tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter in the spread of misinformation – in particular false data on the coronavirus, the US election, and Capitol Siege.

The sites were identified as a primary source of information for insurrectionists leading up to the attack on the Capitol. Many people that stormed the Capitol organized on websites like Facebook in the weeks leading up to the siege.

Experts have also said that Facebook and Twitter should be held accountable for their hands-off approach on content moderation, as well as even potentially profiting off the spread of misinformation on the sites.

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