German Chancellor Angela Merkel confronted Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg on how his company is progressing in efforts to curtail racist posts, after her government complained the social network wasn’t doing enough to crack down on recent xenophobic outbursts.
Attending a luncheon on the sidelines of a United Nations development summit in New York on Saturday, Merkel and Zuckerberg were overheard on a live transmission broadcast on the UN website as participants took their seats.
After Merkel briefly queried Zuckerberg about the hate-post affair, the Facebook CEO is heard responding that “we need to do some work” on the issue.
“Are you working on this?” Merkel asked in English. “Yeah,” Zuckerberg responded, before the dialog was cut off by introductory remarks to those present.
Earlier this month, Facebook said it would step up efforts to target racist content on its German website. The company said Sept. 14 it would join forces with a German Internet watchdog, a non-profit group called Voluntary Self-Monitoring of Multimedia Service Providers, to monitor suspected hate postings.
German authorities have been grappling with the country’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II, with as many as 1 million seeking refuge from war and poverty expected to enter the country this year. Even as many have rushed to welcome the newcomers, the surge has also spurred a spate of attacks on refugee centers and anti-foreigner sentiment.
“We are committed to working closely with the German government on this important issue,” Debbie Frost, a spokeswoman for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, said via e-mail. “We think the best solutions to dealing with people who make racist and xenophobic comments can be found when service providers, government and civil society all work together to address this common challenge.”