Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently upset many on the hard left when he gave a speech at Georgetown University. And what, you ask, could he have possibly said that caused such a great fuss among the leftist elite? Did he come out wearing a MAGA hat singing Trump’s praises? Did he extol the virtues of the free market economy?
So what did the Zuck do that was so egregious? Well, he defended free speech and stated that Facebook would not bow to progressives who continually pressure him to crack down on certain types of content shared on its platform. Facebook does not have the most stellar record when it comes to allowing different types of expression, but it appears that they are not willing to go as far as their colleagues in limiting speech.
The Zuck Defends Free Speech
Zuckerberg gave a 35-minute speech at Georgetown University in which he answered the various criticisms he has received from the left for allowing certain types of content to be published on Facebook’s platform. He addressed some of the comments he received. “Some people believe giving more people a voice is driving division rather than bringing us together,” he said. “More people across the spectrum believe that achieving the political outcomes they think matter is more important than every person having a voice.”
Recently, Facebook was the subject of criticism for airing a political ad placed by President Trump that allegedly gave inaccurate information. Progressives claim that their remarks on the social media company are designed to ensure that people aren’t being misled. But it appears that Zuckerberg’s statements are closer to the truth; none of these individuals complain when news outlets spread false or misleading stories about conservatives on social media.
Zuckerberg later brought up the abolition of slavery and the words of Frederick Douglass, who said: “slavery cannot tolerate free speech.” He also pointed out most of the cases involving civil rights were “decided on First Amendment grounds.”
The Facebook founder moved on to discuss how the social media platform has brought positive change to other countries that usually silence speech. “The most repressive societies have always restricted speech the most – and when people are finally able to speak, they often call for change,” he explained. “This year alone, people have used their voices to end multiple long-running dictatorships in Northern Africa.”
The increasingly polarized political atmosphere was also a topic on which Zuckerberg focused, as Americans on both the left and the right have cited social media as one of the prime contributors to the division. “Much of the research I’ve seen is mixed and suggests the internet could actually decrease aspects of polarization,” he said. “The most polarized voters in the last presidential election were the people least likely to use the internet.”
Then, he discussed the political ads in question, clarifying his stance on the matter. “We don’t fact-check political ads,” he said. “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.”
Well, as the saying goes, you can’t please everyone, right? The hard left came after Zuckerberg with their usual vitriol, ripping apart his speech with their typical authoritarian fervor. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who has advocated for government intervention into the operations of social media companies, tweeted: “Facebook is actively helping Trump spread lies and misinformation. Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once. They might do it again—and profit off of it.”
Far-left news site Slate also published a piece critical of Zuckerberg, citing the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, as an example of the company’s supposed free speech malfeasance. “There was that video broadcast live on Facebook earlier this year by the terrorist who murdered 50 people at two separate mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that the company was unable to detect and take down before it was copied and reposted 1.5 million times on Facebook in a 24-hour period,” they wrote.
Of course, no anti-free speech push would be complete without commentary from journalist Andrew Marantz, who penned a piece for The New Yorker slamming the Facebook founder:
“Elsewhere in his speech, Zuckerberg made a passing reference to the printing press. As he always does, he used it as a metonym for the inevitable march of progress—made only more efficient by great men of history, such as Johannes Gutenberg and Mark Zuckerberg. But the printing press didn’t only lead to progress. It also led to anti-Semitic violence, the spread of medical misinformation, and about a century of religious wars.”
Wow. So apparently we’re going to pillory Gutenberg for inventing the printing press now. Who could have known what dreadful acts the man enabled through his invention? But this is standard fare for Marantz, who also wrote a piece for The New York Times claiming that refusing to regulate online speech is killing Americans.
What’s the Real Motivation?
It appears that most of the arguments leftists are using to attack Zuckerberg are some variation of the aforementioned comments. The notion that progressives are taking issue with Facebook because it allows people to spread misinformation is rather amusing, considering the fact that their preferred media outlets routinely skew their reporting in a way that is deceptive – and they share these stories on Facebook. It’s almost like they only care about misinformation if it harms the progressive agenda, isn’t it?
Marantz and Slate appear to favor the claim that allowing free speech online will feed more racially motivated violence. But Facebook already removes content that is designed to incite violent actions. In fact, the company regularly takes down inflammatory and bigoted content.
But what is even more concerning about the backlash against Zuckerberg’s stance regarding online speech is the political motivation of those creating it. Many on the far left have been pushing for more restrictions on speech, especially on social media platforms.
But as with most statists, they are not doing this to prevent race-based violence; indeed, it seems to be part of a gradual effort to police speech. Many of these individuals would prefer to see a system similar to that of the United Kingdom, which imprisons its citizens for expressing the wrong views. This latest flare-up is just one in a series of recent attacks on freedom of expression, and unfortunately, it will not be the last.