Facebook security budget 'greater than whole revenue at 2012 IPO'

Mark Zuckerberg attempts to put advertisers' minds at ease by stressing his platform has dramatically enhanced its brand safety measures.

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg

Brands can breathe a little easier as Facebook beefs up its brand safety initiatives.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s speech on Standing For Voice and Free Expression at Georgetown University carried a positive message for brands advertising on the platform.

According to Zuckerberg, further measures have been taken to ensure that inappropriate, violent, and sexual content would remain off the platform, even as the number of users increases. 

This news, in addition to the updated brand safety controls that Facebook launched in April, means that marketers' minds can be more at ease knowing the likelihood of their content showing up next to a terrorist recruitment video would be drastically lowered. 

Several brands had pulled their ads from Facebook and Google in the wake of the New Zealand Christchurch shooting, which left 50 people dead and was live-streamed on Facebook for at least 17 minutes. 

Zuckerberg hopes to make it even easier to remove objectionable material through a combination of AI and increased manpower. 

In his speech, Zuckerberg stated: "Our AI systems identify 99 percent of terrorism-related content and takes it down before anyone sees it. To do this is a massive investment, but Facebook’s security budget today is greater than the whole revenue of our company was when we had our IPO in 2012.

"We’ve seen people broadcast self-harm, suicide, and all sorts of terrible acts of violence. It was a new challenge for us and we had to build systems to respond quickly. As a result, our new AI systems can detect the risk of self-harm being broadcast within minutes, and in certain cases alert first responders.

"We built specific systems to address each type of harmful content, about 20 categories in total, from incitement of violence to child exploitation and intellectual property violations. We judge ourselves by the prevalence of harmful content on our services and the percent we find proactively before anyone has to report it to us." 

In addition to banning content as it appears, he also shared Facebook’s new strategy of banning content creators of ill repute, before any objectionable material is ever posted. 

The platform currently has more than 35,000 people working on security, Zuckerberg added.

Additionally, his speech focused on the impact that Facebook has had on free speech, and the benefits and detriments of free expression in an increasingly polarized world.  

According to Zuckerberg, simply banning political ads is not a viable solution due to the fact that many topics are inherently political, and ads showcasing issues rather than candidates are the majority either way. 

It is also difficult to ban certain political discourse just because it is unpopular, as long as it fits within reasonable guidelines, and any attempt to do so would be stifling free expression, which Zuckerbug claims to be a supporter of. 

According to the founder, a lack of such freedom is one of the reasons why Facebook never launched in China.

He explained: "I think that we need to consider the specific ways the internet is different, address those risks and still protect freedom of expression. In times of social tension, our impulse is to pull back on free expression, we want the progress from free expression, but we don’t want the drawbacks.

"When it’s not clear what to do then we should err on the side of greater expression."