How Facebook is coming to terms with controversial content

At the Wall Street Journal‘s WSJ.D conference, the Journal’s Christina Passariello interviewed Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and chief product officer Chris Cox—and her first salvo of questions involved how the company is figuring out how to deal with controversial content such as Nick Ut’s famous photo of a naked girl suffering suffering from napalm burns during the Vietnamese War, which the company initially suppressed before concluding that it was acceptable, and even important, to show.

It’s a challenge that the company is continuously in the process of figuring out, especially since it isn’t a traditional content site. “A media company is about the stories it tells,” said Cox. “A technology company is about the tools that it builds.” Facebook remains a tech company, but, as Sandberg said, “We’re proud of the role we play in witnessing.”

“The really important question,” she added, is, ‘how do we make sure that people have free expression on Facebook?'” As part of that effort, the company is working with experts on different types of problematic content—bullying, hate speech, nudity—to set the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable.