Defiant Zuckerberg Says Facebook Won’t Police Political Speech

He will continue his public offensive on Friday, when an interview with Dana Perino of Fox News is scheduled to air. Next week, he will be in Washington for a hearing on the company’s cryptocurrency project, called Libra. It will be his second time testifying in front of Congress after April 2018, when he answered lawmakers’ questions on Facebook’s treatment of user data.

In an interview at Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters on Tuesday, Mr. Zuckerberg laid out more of the reasoning behind his speech. He cited Facebook’s role as an American company — one that can espouse Western ideals such as free expression — and mused on how the social network would be viewed in time.

“Today, the state of the global internet around the world is primarily defined by American companies and platforms with strong free expression values,” he said. “There’s just no guarantee that will win out over time.”

Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged in the interview that his position would not satisfy everyone. But he said he wrote the address to lay out how he wanted his company to operate long into the future — including the far-off day when he is no longer running Facebook.

“I hope this is a moment for us to put our place in history in perspective,” he said.

At Georgetown University on Thursday, long lines of students snaked into the hallways as they waited to hear Mr. Zuckerberg. Questions from the students were collected ahead of the speech. Journalists were not permitted to ask Mr. Zuckerberg questions.

During the speech, Mr. Zuckerberg said he had considered banning political ads from Facebook. But he said political advertising could be considered part of speech and the slope of deciding which issues were political and which were not would be too slippery to navigate. He added that political ads were a negligible amount of Facebook’s $55.8 billion in annual revenue.

Afterward, Mr. Zuckerberg was whisked off the stage and students — including President Trump’s daughter, Tiffany Trump, who attends Georgetown’s law school — filed out of the 700-seat auditorium.

Mr. Zuckerberg later met briefly with the president of Georgetown, John J. DeGioia, and stayed on the leafy campus to record the interview with Fox News. Then he went to the airport to fly back to Silicon Valley.

Cecilia Kang reported from Washington, and Mike Isaac from Menlo Park, Calif.