Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder has used the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur to issue a public apology for the way his social media platform was used to divide people.
The site is under intense pressure to clamp down on “fake news” that has proliferated in social media bubbles and Mr Zuckerberg has admitted he underestimated the problem of misinformation during last year’s bitter election campaign.
In a message posted on Facebook, the tech entrepreneur said the holiest day of the Jewish year – thei day of atonement after the new year – was a time to reflect.
“For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better,” he wrote. “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better.”
Mr Zuckerberg has been on the defensive for months about allegations that Facebook helped spread fake news and that Russian agents bought advertisements as part of an attempt to sway the election outcome.
The site has already passed to Congress about 3000 adverts bought by Russian interests and has been been asked – along with Google and Twitter – to appear before two Congressional investigations looking at Moscow’s meddling.
Mr Zuckerberg’s attitude has at times angered politicians in Washington and some calling for tighter regulation.
Two days after the election, for example, he said it was a “pretty crazy idea” to suggest that the spread of fake news on Facebook had influence the election.
Last week, in the face of growing hostility, he attempted to row back.
“After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea,” he wrote in another post. “Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive.”