Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has lambasted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an opinion-editorial published Thursday, accusing the Silicon Valley billionaire of allowing the spread of “crazy lies” after refusing to prohibit political ads on his social network.
Aaron Sorkin made waves for his 2010 movie The Social Network, which portrayed Facebook’s founding and the resulting lawsuits from twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who accused Zuckerberg of stealing the idea for the platform from them while at Harvard University.
“I admire your deep belief in free speech,” Sorkin writes for the New York Times. “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.”
UPDATE: The Times has had to issue a three-fold correction of incorrect assertions in Sorkin’s piece. The correction reads:
An earlier version of this article misstated the year in which The Social Network was released. It was 2010, not 2011. The nature of the major lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker was misstated. It was an invasion of privacy lawsuit, not a defamation suit. In addition, information about Americans’ use of Facebook as a news source was misstated. In 2018, over 40 percent of Americans said they got news from Facebook; it is not the case that half of all Americans say that Facebook is their main source of news.
“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,” the Oscar-winning screenwriter continues.
Aaron Sorkin also argued Facebook’s political ads policy is “not defending free speech,” but rather is an exercise in “assaulting truth.”
The West Wing creator’s op-ed comes after hundreds of Facebook employees have signed a letter to Zuckerberg and other executives saying they oppose the social network’s policy of letting politicians lie in advertisements.
The Times reported Monday that more than 250 workers have signed the letter urging Facebook leaders to change the policy that they say is a “threat to what FB stands for.” While that’s a small fraction of Facebook’s workforce of more than 35,000, it’s a rare showing of employee dissent generally more typical of Google and Amazon.
Facebook spokeswoman Bertie Thomson says the company appreciates its employees voicing their concerns but the company “remains committed to not censoring political speech.”
In contrast, Twitter, reacting to growing concern about misinformation spread on social media, is banning all political advertising from its service. Its move strikes a sharp contrast with Facebook, which continues to defend running paid political ads, even false ones, as a free speech priority.
“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Wednesday in a series of tweets announcing the new policy.
The AP contributed to this report.