“The Social Network” writer Aaron Sorkin is taking on Facebook once again, criticizing the company and its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday for allowing political ads to run without being fact-checked.
Sorkin, in a New York Times op-ed, acknowledged a recent speech Zuckerberg gave at Georgetown University, where the CEO defended Facebook’s decision by saying it was based on American free speech principles. Sorkin said he admired Zuckerberg’s “deep belief” in free speech — but that shouldn’t extend to letting political ads run with lies in them, he argued.
“This can’t possibly be the outcome you and I want, to have crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together,” Sorkin said. “Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children’s lives.”
Sorkin later said he was able to find a political ad erroneously claiming Joe Biden gave Ukraine’s attorney general $1 billion not to investigate his son, Hunter Biden.
“Every square inch of that is a lie and it’s under your logo. That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth,” Sorkin said.
“You and I want speech protections to make sure no one gets imprisoned or killed for saying or writing something unpopular, not to ensure that lies have unfettered access to the American electorate.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
The scathing piece comes after weeks of criticism from many left-leaning pundits, who have called on Facebook to take a more hands-on approach to policing its political ads. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has reiterated multiple times he would rather have Facebook’s users determine whether an ad contains a lie, rather than the company itself.
“As a principle,” Zuckerberg said during his speech at Georgetown University, “in a democracy, I believe people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.”
That stance has been ridiculed by Facebook’s critics in the past month, including by 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, who has vocally disagreed with Zuckerberg’s approach. On Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey added to the growing pressure on Facebook when he tweeted his company would abandon all political ads on Nov. 22.
In his Times piece, Sorkin recounted screening “The Social Network” for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg before it hit theaters. Sandberg, according to Sorkin, asked: “How can you do this to a kid?”
Now, Sorkin added, “I hope your COO walks into your office, leans in (as she suggested we do in her best selling book), and says, ‘How can we do this to tens of millions of kids?’Are we really going to run an ad that claims Kamala Harris ran dog fights out of the basement of a pizza place while Elizabeth Warren destroyed evidence that climate change is a hoax and the deep state sold meth to Rashida Tlaib and Colin Kaepernick?”
Facebook’s stock, after strong Q3 earnings on Wednesday, is up 2.7% in early-trading on Thursday.
UPDATE: Zuckerberg responded to Sorkin on Thursday afternoon by quoting from the screenwriter’s 1995 film ‘The American President.” On Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, he shared:
“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say: You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”