CNBC Transcript: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Speaks with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin on “Squawk Box” Today
WHEN: Today, Thursday, May 28, 2020
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WHERE: CNBC’s “Squawk Box”
The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F 6AM – 9AM) today, Thursday, May 28th. The following is a link to video of the interview on CNBC.com:
Watch CNBC’s full interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Mark, you know, you've decided, effectively, to move the workplace, in a very new way, which is that you're saying that you imagine 50% of your people are going to be working from home or remotely over the next five to 10 years. And that's a huge decision. So, let's just start with how did you make that decision? What are you expecting it's going to look like?
FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: Well, I think it's going to be a very measured process for getting there. So, I do predict that over the next five to 10 years, we'll be able to get as many as, that as much as 50% of the company working remotely. But that’s not a goal. It's not like I feel like it's critical that we get to half. But it's a prediction about how much I think we will get, based on the talent pools that we'll be able to have access to through recruiting outside of just the big cities, and what percent of our employees from studies and surveys that we've done have shown an interest in working remotely, if given that option.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: And so, let's talk about the cultural piece of this. Because you're going to be onboarding people. You're going to have people remote all over the country. Do you think it's going to advantage or disadvantage people? Do you think it's going to attract certain types of people who want to be in the office? There's also not just want to be in the office but there's proximity to power. So, if you have a boss, oftentimes you want to try to be near that boss. So, is that the old idea of facetime, does that go away under this?
FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: Yeah, I think that there are certainly some advantages of remote work. And then there are issues that we have to deal with. So, maybe I'll just go through some of the advantages first, and then we can get into the challenges at length, as well. So, the biggest advantages I think are access to large pools of talent, who don't live around the big cities and aren't willing to move there.
And there are a lot of people in the U.S. and in Canada and ultimately around the world who I think we and other companies that go in this direction will be able to access. We also see on the retention side, one of the top reasons when people leave the company that they tell us that they are leaving because they want to move to a place, maybe to be with their family, but we don't have an office there. So, we'll now be able to keep more of those folks in the loop would be in some ways even more valuable than recruiting new people because those people already ramped up on our culture.
This, overall, will, I think help spread economic opportunity more broadly across the country. I think there's a big challenge right now which is that a lot of opportunities are only available in cities in these metropolitan areas, which means that people kind of need to choose between the lifestyle that they want and sometimes, would need to move to a city and leave that in order to have good economic opportunities.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Right.
FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: But it's not clear why that should have to be the case. And I think something like remote working can help on that. There are environmental positive aspects. People are going to spend a lot less time commuting, and more time just teleporting in, either over video chat or eventually things like virtual reality. And for us, in our company, so much of what we do is just building products that help people feel connected and present together, no matter where they are.
So, whether that's the main kind of feed products that we offer or things like video chat, Workplace for Enterprises or hardware with portal, or the longer-term bets are on virtual and augmented reality and they're really about helping you to present. I kind of feel like moving in a more remote direction and requiring our employees to rely on these tools more will help advance some of that future technology development as well. So, that's a lot of stuff on the good shot.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Right. Do you imagine senior people in those roles being remote?
MARK ZUCKERBERG: Yeah, I think we will certainly get there. Actually, one of the big things that we basically decided is we're rolling this out in a measured way is we're going to have more experienced people be able to do this first. Because we concluded that if you're a new grad at a college or haven’t had a lot of experience working in a company, it's actually more important that you're at the office in person for training in order to get ramped up on how a company works and how to work with colleagues in that environment before putting you in in the environment where you could potentially be more, you know, on your own working remotely.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Right.
MARK ZUCKERBERG: Yeah. There are a few things like that. In terms of the most senior folks, there's certainly demand on our management team. And I do think some of the most senior people will shift to work remotely more of the time. But of course, in these really senior roles, they are somewhat something unique. I mean, for me, for example, I couldn't just choose to work from home all the time if I wanted. I have to go and meet with people, whether they're their partners or governments or different folks. And so, I would anticipate that I'm going to spend more of my time working remotely than I did before. But I don't think that it would be feasible for someone like me or in a role like me to just work remotely all the time. I don’t--
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: But what does it do to like your executive team, Mark, in terms of, I imagine the days you’re in the office, they're going to want to be in the office. And on days you’re not in the office, maybe they'll take the day from home.
FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: Yeah. And to some degree, we already have done this. We have this policy called No Meeting Wednesdays, which quickly evolved into Work From Home Wednesdays, because a lot of people felt, ‘Hey, if I don't have to come in and I don't have meetings, then I'm going to be more efficient if I don't have to commute into the office that day and I can just get through whatever code I’m writing or document I’m writing from home.’
So, we already have that. And that's standardizing on people taking time at certain points has actually been a pretty good tactic. In general, I think one of the big challenges with remote work that we're all going to have to work through is the feeling of building socials bonds, building culture, and creativity together. People are going to need to feel like they have the same opportunities to do their best work remotely, in addition to being in the office. And they're going to need to feel like it's not going to disadvantage their career to work remotely.
And those are things that we're going to have to be very intentional about how we engineer these processes, how meetings work, what opportunities people have, in order to make sure that ambitious people who really care about their career know that it's still a good decision to work remotely and they're still going to be able to get good stuff done. So, I think that there are a lot of open questions on exactly how to do this.
But this is part of the reason why we're taking a measured approach and rolling this out over the coming years, starting with people who are experienced, who are high performing of the company, in order to set that tone that that good, kind of key leaders and folks that a lot of people want to be like are going to be moving to be remote. I think that will set the tone and then we'll kind of work from there in order to figure out how to open this up to, to more people.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Mark, you were early on COVID and on moving people out of offices, you're also early on making the decision not to do large gatherings all the way through June of 2021. And you made that decision last month. Tell us how you made that decision? And I'm also curious now as the United States is reopening, America's reopening, so to speak, whether you would think about changing that decision?
FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: Yeah, so, outside of Facebook, I spend a meaningful amount of time on our family philanthropy, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, where a big part of what we do is health work, fighting diseases. And, through that work, I’ve gotten the chance to get to know, pretty well, a number of leading experts in these fields. I mean, we helped establish this sort of organization, the Biohub. It’s a really great research facility in the Bay Area. Which by the way, you know, one of the co-presidents is one of the leading infectious disease researchers who identified – was on the team who identified the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. So, he was very helpful and instrumental in me understanding what might happen. And by the way, has done great work turning the Biohub into a testing facility for the Bay Area.
While testing was still limited Biohub was that it was enabling thousands of tests a day. And also, we work closely with a public health expert called Tom – named Tom Frieden, who was the director of CDC for a while. So, those two really helped me understand it early on and when we were getting past the point that this was just as a disease that was in China, and a number of Asian countries, and when it became inevitable that it was going to spread broadly, what that was going to look like.
And that enabled me to take some, some of the policy decisions early on to anticipate that and make sure that our workforce could be safe and start building tools to serve our larger community, like the COVID Information Center that we put at the top of everyone's newsfeed for weeks and directed more than 2 billion people to go see it so they could get authoritative information on the disease, and what's going on.
In terms of opening up, at this point, you know, because we're in a lucky position where because a lot of what we do is software development. And you really can do that mostly from home, I think opening up is going to be somewhat of a contented resource. There are a lot of small businesses and other folks who really depend on being able to get out into public and out more openly in order for their businesses to survive.
But part of keeping them safe means folks who can stay at home I think being a little more conservatively about when they return. So, we've made the decision that we're going to be on the slow end of having people come back to work. We've already started opening up some of the offices for certain roles that really can only be done there. But we will open up a little more slowly over time that might otherwise be possible, just in order to make sure that the folks who really need to be able to stay open for their livelihoods, can have right of way on that if that makes sense.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Right. Want to try to switch topics now, just for a couple of seconds, or want to try a couple of other questions on you for a second. Twitter, as you know, just started fact-checking President Trump in the past 24 hours, since yesterday. What did you think of that?
FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: Well, you know, we’re different companies, but I think we've been pretty clear on what I think the right approach is. Which is that I don't think that Facebook or internet platforms, in general, should be arbiters of truth. I think that's kind of a dangerous line to get down to, in terms of deciding what is true and what isn't. And I think political speech is one of the most sensitive parts of a democracy. People should be able to see what politicians say. And there's tons of scrutiny already--political speech is the most scrutinized speech already by a lot of the media. And I think that that will continue.
No, of course, you know, we have lines. So, you know, just because we don't want to be determining what is true and false, you know, doesn’t mean that politicians or anyone else can just say whatever they want. And our policies are grounded in trying to give people as much voice as possible while saying, if you're going to harm people in specific ways, right, if you're going to do something that's going to cause violence or if you're saying that something is a cure to a disease that has been proven to be a cure, but it's not.
And that could lead people to either not seek another treatment or do something that could be harmful, we will take them down to a matter who says that. You know, we had a case recently where the Brazilian President was saying that hydroxychloroquine was proven by science to be safe.
We had to make the difficult decision of taking that down, even though we want to provide as much voices as possible. So, there are lines, and we will enforce them. But I think in general you want to give as wide of a voice possible. And I think you want to have a special deference to political speech.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: But then as we get closer to the election and commentary around the election and questions even about whether we’re going to have a constitutional crisis, I mean, that has already come out. Could you see yourself fact-checking certain things that are coming, either from the White House of from other politicians in the United States?
MARK ZUCKERBERG: So, I mean let me be clear about what we do. You know, for misinformation more broadly, we have a program to make sure that, you know, the things that are spreading virally on Facebook, aren't completely made up hoaxes. And so, if you look at you know whatever the top thousand or 10,000 links are that are being shared in a given day. You know some of the stuff that people share on the internet is really junk, and it's completely made up and you don't want that stuff to be the stuff that's going the most viral. So, we have a program where we work with independent fact-checkers on that, to make sure that things that are completely hoaxes are -- can be limited in their spread. But that's -- the point of that program isn't to like, try to parse words on is something slightly true or false.
It’s really to catch the worst of the worst stuff. In terms of political speech, again, I think you want to give broad deference to the political process and political speech. But, you know, there are lines. If, you know, we have very clear policies on voter suppression. For example, but if you mislead people on when they can vote, or how they can vote in a way that is going to have an effect where people might think that they're voting and exercising their right to vote. But they actually aren’t.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Right.
MARK ZUCKERBERG: Because they show up on the right on the wrong day or vote -- think that they're voting but they're doing something that isn't actually voting, we're not going to allow that. We'll take that down, no matter who says that. Those are very clear policies. But in general, you know, we've tried to distinguish ourselves as probably being one of the tech companies that is the most protective of giving people a voice and free expression overall. There are clear lines. But that map to specific harms and damage that can be done before we take down the content. But, overall, including compared to some of the other companies. We try to be more on the side of giving people a voice in free expression.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Right. What do you make of the idea that throughout this crisis, some of the largest companies--largest tech companies actually, have been the biggest beneficiaries? That ultimately more -- this has accelerated the success of the big tech companies and has actually made it harder for the smaller players?
FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: I mean, I think that over the long-term those two things are inextricably linked. I mean our business, for example, you know, we're really in the business of serving small businesses. The vast majority of our advertisers are small businesses, and that makes up the biggest part of our revenue. More than 100 million small businesses around the world use our services, the vast majority of which, for free, but some of them are paying and that's basically our business. So, yeah, we're certainly seeing a dynamic where a lot of small businesses are under a lot of pressure, especially as -- a lot of people across the country being told to stay home, physical storefronts are having a hard time staying open. And even when they are open, a lot of people are wary about going out.
So, what we're seeing is that a lot of small businesses are having to shut down and may not survive this period. And that, I think, will ripple through and ultimately affect everyone, and no one is going to be immune from that.
But one of the things that we are seeing is that a strategy that a lot of small businesses are using to survive and stay afloat is to shift more to the internet, where, you know, your online storefront will stay open, even when your physical store can't be. And to that end, we've tried doing a number of things. We had this big launch a couple of weeks ago, a new product called Facebook Shops.
And what it basically is, is it gives small businesses, the ability to quickly set up a shop that you can attach to your Facebook and your Instagram profile. And you do it once, and now people who interact with your business on social media can buy things directly from you and discover your products and complete the transactions. I think something like that is going to hopefully help more small businesses stay afloat during this period.
It's obviously not going to mitigate all the harm and it's not going to work for everyone. But I hope it can have some impact. But at the end of the day, I think we are all in this together. I think that there's no future where somehow all the small businesses suffer. But then, you know, people still have enough disposable income to go spend money on things and then large businesses are fine. I just think that that's not going to be how this plays out.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: I know we have got to run. Have you seen anything on the platform already, as America reopens, that's indicative of whether more people are either spending time advertising or people are buying things through small businesses?
FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: I need to think about that a bit more. Certainly, we're seeing increased activity, including of people interacting with small businesses. We're seeing small businesses start to use Facebook Shops and other things more. But I think it's not, it's not just one, one clear story where every sector is doing the same. I think what we're generally seeing is some areas around eCommerce, shipping, shopping online, things like that, are recovering and growing faster. Things like entertainment, gaming. I think people do all there at home are recovering faster. But then certain things like travel I just think are going to have an issue for a very long time to come.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Okay, Mark I know we have to go. Before I go, coolest non-Facebook app, or program that you started using during quarantine? Anything that you found to be really clever that you're using?
FACEBOOK CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG: Well, you know, I have to say I was doing this a bit before, but I've spent a lot more time playing with games and virtual reality with friends during this period. You know, I've always been a fan of virtual reality. And that's of course why we started -- why we bought Oculus and been focused on building that. But now, during this period where I can't physically be with, you know, a lot of my friends having the ability to do something where we're, it feels like we're physically in a space together. And I started playing this game, Echo Arena. It's like, it's kind of -- it's a combination of like frisbee in three dimensions, in zero gravity.
I don't know if you remember the book Ender's Game, where they have this game that Ender and the other students play during the simulation. It's kind of like that in virtual reality. And I, like, get teams of my friends and family together and we're playing in VR. It's incredibly fun. And I think it will be a glimpse of the future, where I think more -- there will be more experiences like this that I think a lot of people are going to enjoy.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Okay, I will see you on Oculus, Mark. Thank you.