Updated from 10:18 a.m. with additional information.
Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report on the principle of fostering a more open and connected world, but in the wake of the 2016 presidential election and amid rapidly changing habits of media consumption, the tech leader is now grappling with the idea that his company may be playing an unintended role in pulling people apart.
Zuckerberg reflected on the implications of Facebook's core principles in a sweeping interview with the New York Times, where he spoke about how his company's News Feed has acted as both an inhibitor to and a facilitator of bringing people together, among a wide range of topics.
On one hand, Zuckerberg contended that the algorithms that power Facebook's News Feed have helped users reach more "meaningful" content, yet he also admitted there have been some other, somewhat darker, consequences. Experts contend that Facebook and other social media sites have fostered ecosystems in which users can insulate themselves from opposing or differing viewpoints, potentially clouding them from the factual news essential for democratic decision-making, according to the Times.
Even more troublesome is the fact that some extremist and terrorist groups have used Facebook's sprawling network of two billion users to promote ideas of isolationism and hate, examples that have caused Zuckerberg to question the merits of building a global community on Facebook.
"I think it's really important to get to the core of the actual problem," Zuckerberg told the Times. "...And misinformation I view as one of the things that can possibly erode common understanding. But sensationalism and other things, I actually think, are probably even stronger and more prolific effects."
"And we have to work on all these things. I think we need to listen to all the feedback on this," he added.
Following the 2016 election, former president Barack Obama condemned the active spread of misinformation and how such content can appear legitimate when viewed on a Facebook page or on TV. Zuckerberg told the Times that he had spoken to Obama, as well as other political officials, about Facebook's fake news problem.
Over the past year, the social media giant has increasingly come under fire for the prevalence of clickbait headlines and inaccurate news articles on the site, problems that were made worse when Gizmodo later published a story saying that Facebook employees had buried conservative news. The story did little to silence criticisms that Facebook had turned into an echo chamber.
In response, Facebook and other tech giants such as Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report Google have launched tools to help spot and remove fake news. Google on Tuesday said it would tweak its search algorithms to root out "low quality" content. Thus far, Facebook has largely resisted the idea of hiring editors to police content on the site and yet the company has slowly rolled out news literacy programs and hired former CNN news anchor Campbell Brown to head up its news partnerships team.
Zuckerberg talked at length about many of these same issues in a 6,000 word manifesto he wrote about Facebook in February. In it he detailed how Facebook plans to tackle issues of heightened isolationism, terrorism and the spread of misinformation, using a strategy based around the idea of creating a "social infrastructure" that advances humanity. The Times piece pointed out that with this idea, Zuckerberg is saying that Facebook will be a central part of the social media revolution, which stands to heighten many critics' concerns that Facebook is becoming too big.
Overall, Zuckerberg seemed to acknowledge that Facebook's core tenet of bringing people together isn't perfect.
"Giving everyone a voice has historically been a very positive force for public discourse because it increases the diversity of ideas shared," Zuckerberg wrote in the manifesto earlier this year. "But the past year has also shown it may fragment our shared sense of reality."