One of the great things about has-been leftist clowns is where once you took seriously the threat they posed to a free society, now, they provide unintentional comic relief. Michael Moore has raised this behavior to an art form, and now Aaron Sorkin joins the fray.
The set up is the background. On October 17, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a speech in defense of free speech at Georgetown University. In it he departed from the left’s “free for me but not for thee” orthodoxy and declared that Facebook would no longer play nanny and homeroom monitor for political advertising.
We recently clarified our policies to ensure people can see primary source speech from political figures that shapes civic discourse. Political advertising is more transparent on Facebook than anywhere else — we keep all political and issue ads in an archive so everyone can scrutinize them, and no TV or print does that. We don’t fact-check political ads. We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. And if content is newsworthy, we also won’t take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards.
I know many people disagree, but, in general, I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy. And we’re not an outlier here. The other major internet platforms and the vast majority of media also run these same ads.
This was surprising, at least to me, and welcome. Facebook has no business fact-checking political ads which are 99% of the time composed of claims that may be opinions and value judgments on what is best. If a candidate or campaign does tell a blatant lie, like, for instance, claiming to be an American Indian or asserting a key role in creating the internet, it is the job of other candidates to do the fact checking and it is incumbent upon the political media to ask the candidate hard questions, particularly when they are Democrats, rather than just going along with it. This last part is key because we know for a fact that the New York Times sat on documents proving that Elizabeth Warren lied to the nation about being fired from a teaching job because she was pregnant rather than write the story.
A reporter who now works for the New York Times failed to report on public records, which he obtained in April, that cut against Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D., Mass.) claim that she was fired from a teaching position in 1971 due to pregnancy discrimination.
Reid Epstein, who was then working for the Wall Street Journal, filed an open-records request with the Riverdale Board of Education on April 2 seeking “to inspect or obtain” copies of public records relating to Warren’s time teaching at Riverdale during the 1970-1971 school year. In response to his request, Epstein on April 10 received school-board minutes that challenge Warren’s story, according to documents obtained by National Review through the New Jersey Open Records Act.
In the past, Facebook has censored political ads when they did run afoul of the leftist narrative. Elizabeth Heng, the child of refugees from the killing fields of the Khmer
Rouge, had repeated problems with Facebook refusing to run her ads because of their reference to the slaughters in Cambodia as a result of communism. And, somehow, their decisions all seem to cut one way.
I don’t know how much of Zuckerberg’s decision was due to his devotion to the First Amendment or concern that anti-trust regulators were going to do to Facebook what Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz have done to Zuckerberg in Senate hearings. (At this point, I just want to tell the ‘muh private company conservatives’ that I’m really not interested in letting a mega-corporation get away with what a city council is not allowed to do.)
This decision knocked a lot of leftist noses out of joint because they’ve spent a lot of time setting up a fiefdom of nasty little SJWs in Facebook to police speech. Part of their power had been in deciding what candidates for election could actually say. Now that power is gone.
Enter aging windbag, Aaron Sorkin. Using as a point of departure his movie about Facebook, “Social Network,” rather than, you know, reality, Sorkin lambastes Zuckerberg for not trying to be a gatekeeper who decides what political speech can and cannot be seen.
It was hard not to feel the irony while I was reading excerpts from your recent speech at Georgetown University, in which you defended — on free speech grounds — Facebook’s practice of posting demonstrably false ads from political candidates. I admire your deep belief in free speech. I get a lot of use out of the First Amendment. Most important, it’s a bedrock of our democracy and it needs to be kept strong.
But 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. Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children’s lives.
Hillarity ensued. First off, the New York Times ended up posting extensive corrections to the Sorkin op-ed.
Correction: Oct. 31, 2019
An earlier version of this article misstated the year in which “The Social Network” was released and Mark Zuckerberg’s age at the time. It was 2010, not 2011, and Mr. Zuckerberg was 26, not 27. It also misstated the nature of the major lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker. It was an invasion of privacy lawsuit, not a defamation suit. In addition, the essay incorrectly described what Americans say about their use of Facebook as a news source. In 2018, over 40 percent of Americans reported that they got news from Facebook; it is not the case that half of all Americans say that Facebook is their main source of news.
This is a good reason why movies don’t make the best political arguments and why people who trade in fantasy shouldn’t be allowed to interject themselves in debates that affect actual people. They’ve become unable to separate reality from their fantasy world.
Then, using the same point of reference, Zuckerberg responded.
Maybe Zuckerberg just hired some flunky from Reason to flame Sorkin or maybe he actually came up with it himself, no matter it showed both the necessity of free speech to a free society and demonstrated that Sorkin’s real loyalty is to the left and that he doesn’t consider heterodox speech worthy of protection.
Who knows, maybe the light has come on at Facebook. From principle or from enlightened self interest maybe they’ll see that there is no upside to Facebook attempting to manage speech in a brawling, free wheeling society that has never tolerated such behavior from its government and is not about to cede that ability to a freakin private corporation.
911 I'd like to report a murder pic.twitter.com/Je7GMrf7DM
— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) October 31, 2019