Mark Zuckerberg insists Facebook supports more free speech, not less
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday vigorously defended his company as a bastion of free speech to be used by all individuals at a time when it is also facing calls to be broken up due to what some consider its omnipresent status as a forum for promoting public discourse over politics and other topics.
Zuckerberg delivered his comments in a speech at Georgetown University that was titled "A Conversation on Free Expression." In his address, Zuckerberg referred to the present time as "another crossroads" in history, and stressed repeatedly that he is in favor of more free speech online instead of clamping down on the ability of individuals to share their voices, even if the topics at hand might inflame public debate or upset peoples' personal sentiments.
"We can either continue to stand for free expression, understanding its messiness, but believing in that the long journey towards greater progress requires confronting ideas that challenge us. or, we can decide the cost is simply too great," Zuckerberg said. "I'm here today because I believe that we must continue to stand for free expression."
Zuckerberg's speech came as Facebook is gearing up for what could be one of the more contentious presidential elections in recent American history. The company still bears the scars from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which that firm improperly gained access to the accounts of 87 million Facebook users during the 2016 election cycle. And Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the top Democratic candidates currently running for president, has pledged to work to break up Facebook, and some other leading internet companies, because of their market dominance, should she win the White House in 2020.
Earlier this month, Zuckerberg said he was prepared to "go to the mat" to fight for Facebook's independence should Warren proceed with her company breakup idea.
In September, Facebook added fuel to the debate over free expression when it unveiled a new policy that includes not fact-checking political ads, nor putting restraints on politicians' speech on the Facebook platform. Zuckerberg defended Facebook's decision during his speech by saying not fact-checking ads actually opens up the ability of individuals to determine for themselves the veracity of politicians' claims.
"We don't do this to help politicians, but because we think people should see for themselves what politicians are saying," Zuckerberg said. "For the same reason, if content is newsworthy, we won't take it down if it would otherwise conflict with our standards."
Zuckerberg admitted that he knew not everyone would agree with Facebook's policy about political ads, but said that "in general, I don't think it's right for a private company to censor politicians, or the news, in a democracy. In a democracy, people should decide what is credible."
In response to a question about Facebook censoring speech by both liberal and conservative politicians, Zuckerberg showed he had a sense of humor about all the diatribe his company faces.
"I think it would be very hard to be biased against both sides," Zuckerberg said before adding, "We're doing a very good job of making everyone angry with us."
Zuckerberg's comments on political ads come as several TV news networks have begun implementing more-stringent guidelines around such advertisements by refusing to run such spots if they include false content.
However, Zuckerberg insisted that political advertising on Facebook "is more transparent than anywhere else," and added that "We keep all political and issue ads in an archive so everyone can scrutinize them for years to come. And that's something that no TV or print outlet does."
This morning I posted that Facebook and Twitter have taken the position that they will accept political ads that contain lies because they don't feel it's in their best interest to fact check claims
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