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Longtime Facebook veteran Andrew Bosworth insists that political and COVID-19 misinformation are societal problems rather than issues that have been magnified by social networks.

Why it matters: Critics say Facebook and other social networks have played a significant role in vaccine hesitancy and the spread of political misinformation.

  • "Individual humans are the ones who choose to believe or not believe a thing. They are the ones who choose to share or not share a thing," Bosworth said in an interview with "Axios on HBO."
  • "I don't feel comfortable at all saying they don't have a voice because I don't like what they said."

Bosworth has been leading Facebook's hardware efforts, including those in virtual and augmented reality. Next year he will become CTO for Meta, Facebook's parent company.

Between the lines: Asked whether vaccine hesitancy would be the same with or without social media, Bosworth defended Facebook's role in combatting COVID, noting that the company ran one of the largest information campaigns in the world to spread authoritative information.

  • He said that individuals make the choice whether to listen to that information or to rely on less reputable information spread by friends and family.
  • "That's their choice. They are allowed to do that. You have an issue with those people. You don't have an issue with Facebook. You can't put that on me."

The big picture: Pressed on whether Facebook and others are amplifying those views, Bosworth characterized it as a demand problem rather than one caused by the amount of misinformation on social media.

  • "People want that information," Bosworth said. "I don't believe that the answer is 'I will deny these people the information they seek and I will enforce my will upon them.' "
  • "At some point the onus is, and should be in any meaningful democracy, on the individual."

Go deeper

Jan 13, 2022 - Technology

While Big Tech zips, regulators slog

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In the year it took the Federal Trade Commission to get a judge to green-light its antitrust suit against Facebook this week, Facebook has already changed its name and shifted its focus.

Why it matters: Tech firms and Beltway regulators not only see issues differently but also operate on wildly different scales of time — with DC's glacial pace often leaving it at a deep disadvantage in its quest to limit tech giants' power.

6 mins ago - World

Scoop: Ukraine tells senators post-invasion sanctions are no help

Zelensky. Photo: Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told U.S. senators visiting Kyiv this week that waiting to impose sanctions on Russia until after an invasion is of no use to Ukraine, according to four sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: The Senate is currently working on a major sanctions package to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine. Democrats and Republicans are united in their support for Ukraine, but divided over whether it would be more effective to sanction Russia now to signal resolve, or hold up the threat of future sanctions to demonstrate the high costs of an invasion.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks has dropped plans to require that U.S. workers get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing, the company announced Tuesday in a memo to employees.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.