We heard from Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, at the weekend. Many might argue it was not a moment too soon.

Broadly, she tells us that we all need to work together to curtail hate. Facebook is committed, and is working hard at it. She defends her company and its approach, but broadly makes the sorts of noises you'd expect in these difficult times.

I take most of it with a grain of salt.


Once again, we need to be reminded that this issue is not new. And just because we are currently fixated with it, doesn't mean others haven't been for years.

The British parliament was last year holding committees and investigations into this very issue after various terror attacks. They wanted Zuckerburg in front of them to answer the very questions we are currently debating. He didn't come, and in that is all you need to know about Facebook's real intentions.

There is a complicated mix at work here.

A genuine belief around freedom of speech that underpinned its formation. Who is the arbiter, the technical aspects of what is being asked and the cost of actually trying to achieve it? And in there too is an level of arrogance. Many a corporate feels disconnected enough from the real world to think they are not really all that accountable - and size feeds that. Facebook is massive, and if they weren't fronting in Britain, they're certainly not falling over themselves for us.

But if I have some sympathy for the tech giants, it's in this. Do we honestly know what we are asking for?

Specifically, do any of us understand just exactly what is required to rid these platforms of so-called hate? And given the answer is no, asking is easy - doing it isn't. Doesn't mean they can't or won't, or at least can't have a crack. But we demand these changes with the naivety of a person who has little or no knowledge of just what's required.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg speaks during a Facebook Community Boost event in December 2018. Photo / File
Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg speaks during a Facebook Community Boost event in December 2018. Photo / File

And that's before you get to the legals. The sort of legals Scott Morrison is talking about.

He raged about the video being up for 69 minutes, indicating 69 minutes was absurd. So what's not absurd? 23 minutes? 18 minutes? 41 minutes? And who's to say, and under what jurisdiction are we suing? Whose law, whose court? These platforms are global, courts aren't.


In times of strife, we want tangibles. The gun law reforms will achieve little, but assuage many. And that's why Facebook and co have got away so long with doing not a lot. The anger is intense, until something comes along to replace it. Facebook know this because they've seen all this before. Doesn't make it right or laudable, but it is indisputably the truth.

Ask yourself this: as a result of the upset, disgust and anger, how many of you have given up Facebook? How many advertisers have actually walked, as opposed to writing open letters? In a world of a lot of talk and little action, that's why a letter from the COO, along with a few tentative steps towards appeasement, tends to be enough.