Zuckerberg Limits Press, Then Gives Address on Free Speech

Citing King draws a correction from civil rights leader's daughter
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2019 7:15 PM CDT
Defending Ads, Zuckerberg Cites Civil Rights Fight, Iraq War
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University in Washington on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Mark Zuckerberg's address Thursday extolling the virtues and importance of free speech prompted a number of examples of it, many of them highly critical. Zuckerberg was defending Facebook's decision to not censor lies and misinformation in political ads and content when he stepped to the microphone at Georgetown University, CBS reports. "I am here today because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression," he said, per the Wall Street Journal. Social media's role is to give voice, not censor, the CEO said. As an example of the role it can play, he cited the war in Iraq. It started when he was in college, Zuckerberg said, and might have been avoided if more Americans opposed to the war had been heard.

The criticism began before Zuckerberg finished. Reporters weren't allowed to ask questions, per the AP, and students' questions were selected by a moderator. News organizations couldn't film him. Zuckerberg "is the antithesis of free expression," said a former Georgetown fellow. Facebook's algorithms ensured that the comments displayed during its livestream were nearly all positive, per the Washington Post. Zuckerberg invoked the civil rights struggle in Facebook's defense, citing Frederick Douglass, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black Lives Matter. "This is a profound misreading of the civil rights movement in America," wrote Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP in the Post. "And a dangerous misunderstanding of the political and digital landscape we now inhabit." King's daughter Bernice listened to the speech, then tweeted: "I'd like to help Facebook better understand the challenges #MLK faced from disinformation campaigns launched by politicians. These campaigns created an atmosphere for his assassination." (More Facebook stories.)

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