Aaron Sorkin, the filmmaker behind The Social Network, shared an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, accusing him and Facebook of “assaulting truth” after their decision not to fact-check political ads on the site.
In The New York Times, Sorkin opened his letter by recalling the intense vetting system The Social Network went through, always with the goal to not get sued by Zuckerberg. This included not just having lawyers for Sony analyze the movie, but actually sending it to top Facebook executives and inviting them to give notes. With that in mind, Sorkin said it was “hard not to feel the irony” as he read excerpts from a recent speech Zuckerberg gave at Georgetown University where he defended Facebook’s political ad policy on the grounds of the First Amendment.
“I admire your deep belief in free speech,” Sorkin wrote, adding, “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.”
Sorkin highlighted the power and reach of Facebook, noting studies that suggest half of all Americans say Facebook is their primary source of information. With that in mind, he singled out a recent Super PAC-funded ad that falsely claimed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had paid the Ukrainian attorney general $1 billion not to investigate his son. “Every square inch of that is a lie and it’s under your logo,” Sorkin wrote. “That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth.”
Unlike with movie studios, TV networks and publishers of books, magazines and newspapers, Sorkin pointed out there is not yet a law that “holds carriers of user-generated internet content responsible for the user-generated content.” Without such legislation in place, Sorkin seemed to suggest, Facebook would have no incentive to vet misleading content in ads. He closed his letter with a dismaying quote from Zuckerberg from his recent congressional testimony that epitomized his half-baked use of free speech to defend Facebook’s ad policy: “In most cases, in a democracy, I believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians they may or may not vote for are saying and judge their character for themselves.”
In turn, Sorkin quipped, “If I’d known you felt that way, I’d have had the Winklevoss twins invent Facebook.”