Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Defends Free Speech Amid Calls for Tighter Controls

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said he believes it is dangerous for people to focus more on their desired political outcomes than giving a range of voices the opportunity to be heard. He compared the current moment of political polarization to other periods of intense social change, including the civil-rights movement. “Some people believe that giving more people a voice is driving division rather than bringing people together,” he said. “I am here today because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression.”

Invoking Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam War and the First Amendment, Mr. Zuckerberg said he saw this moment as one in which Facebook wanted to be on the proper side of history by espousing the Western ideal of free speech and democracy — rather than buckle to a politically charged environment, even if it meant being unpopular. He contrasted Facebook’s position with that of China, where Beijing controls and censors speech. “People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.

“I don’t think most people want to live in a world where you can only post things that tech companies believe to be 100% true,” he said. “We think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.” Zuckerberg’s speech evoked political themes. He mentioned “Air Force moms,” church groups and small businesses that use the company’s products. He touted Facebook’s creation of an oversight board to weigh in on decisions about appropriate content. He also emphasized Facebook’s American roots, pointing out the company remains blocked in China because it hasn’t been willing to concede to regulations there: “If another nation’s platform set the rules, our discourse could be defined by a completely different set of values,” he said.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Defends Free Speech Amid Calls for Tighter Controls Zuckerberg, Inflaming Debate, Asserts Facebook Stands for Free Expression (NYTimes) Mark Zuckerberg talks about threats to free speech and creation of oversight board