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Facebook executive says eliminating all hate speech is impossible

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A high-powered Facebook executive has defended the company’s response to hate speech, arguing that it is almost impossible to catch every case of it.

Steve Hatch, the social network’s boss for the UK and Northern Europe, went on BBC Tuesday to hit back at the harsh criticism Facebook has received in recent weeks saying that it has not done enough to police its platform, arguing that Facebook does an excellent job of weeding out hate.

“Our systems now detect and remove 90 percent [of hate speech] automatically,” Hatch said. “Now that’s not perfect, but we do know it’s up from 23 percent a couple of years ago.”

When the BBC host raised arguments made by critics that Facebook magnifies hateful content in order to increase usage and rake in ad revenue, Hatch said “there is no profit to be had in content that is hateful.”

Indeed, according to Hatch, the content on Facebook simply reflects the views of the people who use the platform.

“There are 3 billion people around the world that use our platforms,” Hatch said. “Of course, there is a small minority of those that are hateful and that’s because as much as we do our very best — and there’s always more that we can do and we will do — but when there’s hate in the world there will also be hate on Facebook.”

Facebook has seen an increasingly large group of advertisers — including Microsoft, Unilever and Ford — join a boycott of its ads platform at the urging of civil rights groups.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg last week signaled that he was feeling the heat, announcing that Facebook would flag posts from public figures that violate its rules but which are considered newsworthy, as well as take extra steps to thwart voter suppression and protect minorities from abuse.

Zuckerberg — who, citing free-speech concerns, has mostly resisted calls for a clampdown on abuse and misinformation — said in a Friday live stream he was “optimistic that we can make progress on public health and racial justice while maintaining our democratic traditions around free expression and voting.”

Shares of Facebook were down 0.6 percent Tuesday morning, at $219.22.

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