Facebook and other social media give a resonant voice to more people.

By Kris Dreessen

Facebook allows users to see what their friends across town are thinking and learn about the life of a Serengeti safari guide with little more than a click.

Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has grown to more than 2 billion monthly users worldwide.

More voice to more people is a key tenet of the company’s philosophy,” says Facebook’s director of public policy, Brian Rice ’00.

An English major at Geneseo, Rice pursued a minor in public relations and interned at New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s office during college. That first political experience, says Rice, inspired him to one day pursue work on Capitol Hill. He later worked in the Massachusetts State House and for former Sen. John Kerry before earning a master’s in public policy.

As director of public policy, Rice works as part of Facebook’s leadership to shape the company’s policy objectives. Rice is also responsible for informing policy-makers in Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and other federal government agencies about Facebook’s concerns, the company’s future direction, and what policies enable the company and similar internet businesses to innovate and create economic growth.

For example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s nonprofit organization, Internet.org, is developing technology to help provide internet access to the 4.5 billion people in the world who don’t have it, including free access to websites related to employment and health and sites that connect people.

Overall, says Rice, “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Brian Rice ‘00 on the Challenges of Progress and Providing an Open Forum

  • Facebook reflects conversations that are happening in the world, while giving more people a voice.
  • Democratizing the way people communicate comes with a lot of upsides. It often results in really positive things happening. The Arab Spring of 2010–11 in which there were anti-government mass protests and demonstrations throughout the Middle East is one great example. But this type of technological disruption can also bring about unintended consequences. We are constantly working to make sure that the platform discourages things like fake news and extremist content. We have a saying at Facebook, “our work is always 1 percent done.”
  • We encourage more speech and building an informed community, but Facebook has always acknowledged that it does not want to be an arbiter of truth. Facebook is a forum for open speech, but that can present challenges when people use the platform to express opinions that others may not agree with.
  • Moving forward, what role do we want internet platforms to have in society? That question is one of the biggest policy challenges of our time.
  • Facebook has held tight to the belief that it should be a neutral platform.
  • One question that we’ve seen rise to the top of the policy discussion today is: Should the company’s role change, now that it is relied upon by so many people, in so many parts of the world?
  • That gets to the second question of how people use the platform to build community.
  • One of the criticisms we see is that social media can be used to further polarize communities by allowing people to identify with their own “tribe,” and Facebook can act as a bubble. That’s one of the real challenges Facebook is addressing. We are always examining what Facebook should be doing to ensure that it isn’t a tool for increased polarization and division — that instead we stick to our mission to bring the world closer together.